Hello friends and happy FALL (finally!). Here in Charleston, fall is certainly different than many other places. It’s still relatively hot, but we are able to go outside without coming back drenched in sweat and covered with mosquito bites. It’s small, but it’s absolute bliss.
Today’s newsletter is about family traditions. I get asked about this all the time because my family is so large with lots of long standing traditions. My grandmother (Mama) is the crux of many of these traditions, and I am very grateful to her for keeping them going. She likely doesn't know this, but Mama has taught me two important things concerning family traditions. The first is to think about the value the tradition instills. The second is that the key to traditions is consistency. What I want you to notice about the three traditions below is that they aren’t typical. They are unique and quirky and I think that’s why I love them so much.
Cultivating Family Traditions
THREE OF OUR TRADITIONS
Summer reading competition: Every summer Mama hosts a summer reading competition. She sends you a festive piece of paper in the mail to track your books, and at the end of the summer there is a prize for anyone who reads four books. We have done this every year for as long as I can remember. Every year it spurs me on to make time to read at least four books.
Gigi nights: For more than 20 years, every summer Mama has her older granddaughters over for a sleepover to drink sparkling grape juice (this graduated to champagne as we got older), eat a fancy meal, and watch the french film Gigi. There is no agenda. We simply have fun spending time together. Even now, at thirty-three, I look forward to packing a bag and sleeping at Mama’s house with my cousins to watch a movie I’ve seen a million times.
The Christmas Fairy: When I was growing up, there was something called the Christmas Fairy. The Christmas Fairy came right after the big Thanksgiving meal and brought you a gift. The gift was wrapped in green and red paper and was something small like a candy cane, packet of hot cocoa, and tin of cookies. The Christmas Fairy ushered in the season and gave you your first gift of Christmas. Talk about magical! You better believe I absolutely loved it. As we grew older, the Christmas Fairy slowly faded away. There were so many grandchildren, and it was a lot of extra work and presents to buy. And that’s ok. Some traditions last forever, and others morph into something completely new. Some take a hiatus and come back around with a new generation of little people.
Gigi Night 2022
Questions to ask yourself:
What do you want to instill?
Oftentimes traditions are symbolic, pointing to a greater meaning. You do them year after year because you want the substance of the tradition to matter to your family. I do not mean to say that every tradition has to be solemn. Traditions can be service oriented or silliness oriented. The reading challenge helped me learn to love reading (or maybe to read even if I don’t feel like it!). Gigi night instilled a sense of togetherness and fun. The Christmas Fairy taught me to savor the Christmas season the moment it started.
Is this repeatable over time?
At the risk of being too simplistic, traditions are things you repeat. If you can’t do them every year, they likely won’t stick. This means you may not be able to have a family tradition of playing in the snow on Christmas Eve. It might not snow next year. But you could almost certainly watch Home Alone and bake cookies. Usually, the best traditions are free or very cheap.
What traditions are you already doing? (maybe you already have more traditions than you think.)
You may already be doing more traditions than you think. But that doesn't mean all of them are worth doing. Here are some follow-up questions to help you flesh out your own family’s traditions.
What family traditions did I have growing up? Are there any activities or celebrations that stand out year after year? What did I love about them?
What values do these traditions instill?
Are there any traditions I currently have that are adding unnecessary stress or that I have simply outgrown?
Leaning into my specific season, what is one tradition I could add this fall? What value is the tradition instilling?
I hope hearing about my family traditions and those follow-up questions were helpful. At the end of the day, anything can be a tradition. It simply has to mean something to YOU. That's what makes it special.
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The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand. If you haven’t learned this by now, Elin is who I come to when I need a book that I know will keep my attention. The Love Season wasn’t her normal chapter structure (it’s one of her earlier books), but it still kept my attention. Unfortunately, I have almost read every book she’s written so I need a new go-to author!
I am currently on hold at the library for A Court of Thorns and Roses. It’s not my usual genre but so many are talking about it I gotta give it a read. Have you read it?
Nate knows my deep love for all things Steve Martin and sent me this article to read. Gah, he’s the best. (He being Steve, but also Nate).
This month I found myself listening to a lot more podcasts. Episodes that really struck me:
The Car Pool Podcast. OK, I don’t have a specific. I have binged them and just love Kelly and Lizz. This podcast is what I listen to when I want to laugh and feel like I am hanging with friends. Their sister banter is the best. It’s all very lighthearted and fun!
Nate and I are LOVING Only Murders in the Building (on Hulu). I think it’s the tiniest bit scary but mostly funny; Nate would like you to know it is 0% scary. I love it when we have a show we are both enjoying. It makes watch time (namely, trying to find a show we both like) so much simpler.
Alright friends, that's all I have for you. Have a lovely month!
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