It is an entertaining truth that children will attach themselves and hold tenaciously to traditions year after year, those mainstays of joyful habit that provide extra assurance of loving care and highlight the kids' special place in their world.
The kids have been talking about our Star Night tradition ever since Thanksgiving, wondering when it would be, admonishing one another not to guess (they were not surprised last year, and surprise is a large part of the tradition).
We sprung it on them last night after church. Mom had given me a Starbucks gift card as a pre-Christmas gift, and I pulled it out of my pocket while we were stopped for gas on the way home and said, "Hey, what's this? It says we should have Star Night TONIGHT!"
The kids went wild. They were completely surprised. Mission accomplished.
It's a lot of fun to take older kids to look at lights. We were treated to Christmas poetry, occasional sing-alongs with the songs on the radio, and amusingly inane comments such as:
"The other day I sang,'Instant frankincense and myrrh..."
To which her youngest sister replied,
"All I want for Christmas is instant oatmeal!"
(I accidentally bought instant oatmeal at the store the other day, and the kids have loved it. I usually buy whole oats-- superior nutritive value, you know. Looks like the whole oats tradition in our house is not as tenacious as some others...)
We listened to one of the local radio stations, which plays all Christmas all the time in December, interspersed with calls from listeners answering whatever question they have put forth for that day. Last night's question invited folks to explain their favorite Christmas tradition. The kids hushed whenever callers came on, and after each cherished tradition was explained, someone was sure to reply, "That's so neat! We should do that!"
This was my favorite:
Every year, the members of a family draw names out of a bowl at Thanksgiving so everyone has one person to focus on. Then in the month between the two holidays, they all write a letter or a story or a poem illustrating how much they love the person whose name they drew, and why they are thankful for him or her. The family has been carrying on this custom since their children were little, and now the children are married and having kids of their own. And they each have extensive collections of sweet reminders that they are loved.
And isn't that the blessing of tradition?
Updated to add: It was very important to Cornflower this morning that she be allowed to make Daddy's sandwiches for work. This is the kind of relational inclusion that is vital for young ones, and so easy to overlook as lives get busier and simple loving customs give way to convenience. Mr. Honey wouldn't think of making his own sandwiches, because we provide them with 'twue wuv' every morning. (Having a specific task to do also gives me more incentive to get up early and tell him good-bye.)
What simple traditions cement family life at your house?