The Importance of Creating Family Rituals:
Deep inside my crawl space, packed inside a dusty box, is a thirty year old artificial Christmas tree. The tree is very pathetic: Most of the bright green, plastic leaves have fallen off and have been lost; the "trunk" is permanently bent at an awkward angle; and perhaps most pathetic of all, it is missing so many parts I am most certain that it can no longer be assembled. On top of the dusty cardboard box holding the Christmas tree is an equally pathetic box of broken ornaments stained yellow with time. Most of these are also broken and to no use to most people. Yet I hold onto to these "things" because they bring back the strongest memories of my childhood.
Every year growing up, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we did the same thing. The day would start as I would put on the Chipmunks Christmas Album. (I would play that album over and over again on this day.) And then my dad would go into the basement and pull out that same artificial tree that is now stored in my basement. Next we would hang all of those same ornaments on it. We did this year after year. The same music. The same tree. The same ornaments.
Even in its younger days the tree was never that great looking. It looked like a bright green, crooked, plastic tree. (We would jokingly refer to it as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.) And I can just imagine my poor parents listening to my chipmunk album over and over again while we decorated. But the fact remains that it was our family's little ritual to signal the start of the Christmas season. And it is comfortable rituals like that that make for many happy family memories.
Now, every Friday after Thanksgiving, Doug and I load the kids into our front wheel drive car and hike out into the woods to find our Christmas tree for the year. We walk the entire 50 acre tree farm until we find the perfect tree. We do this every year. We did it when we were engaged. We did it the first year we were married. I even did this when I was nine month pregnant with Marcus and it nearly sent me into labor! I even did this when Sophia was just a tiny infant and Marcus was toddler! We do this every year. Then we take the tree home and put on the chipmunk album and decorate it as a family. This is our families tradition to signal the start of the Christmas season. This is our little ritual that we have created which I hope will bring some happy memories to our children some day.
One of the most important jobs we have as Attached Mamas is helping to build our own family's culture through various family rituals. These comfortable rituals are what help build memories. Lifelong memories that are so strong that someday our children will probably want their own children to experience them. Rituals are a way to love one another. They are incredibly important to children and adults alike. They serve as touchstones that remind us of the places, people, and times that we hold dear in our life.
New Year's Eve
I had a couple of mama friends ask me how I was planning on bringing the New Year in with my family. And I have to admit that the way I celebrate New Year's with my children nearly exactly mimics the way I spent it growing up. (Again, the power of rituals and those childhood memories!)
So how do we celebrate it?
New Year's Eve starts with a new family rule: No one is aloud to say the word bedtime. There is no such thing as "bedtime" on New Year's Eve. Everyone, no matter how little, no matter how young, is aloud to stay up as late as they want (or can!) on New Year's Eve. We eat a late dinner, and then spend the night cuddling on the couch reading or watching movies.
As midnight approaches we all count down from 10 to 1 until the ball drops and the New Year is here. (Doug and I usually then sneak in a kiss as our way to welcome in the New Year.) Then our entire family marches single file banging pots and pans and yelling "Happy New Year" as loud as we can. We do this until we have been in every single room of the house.
New Year's Day has its own special rituals. Doug is usually happy watching football game after football game on TV while I make our traditional New Year's Day meal of pork and saurkraut. As legend has it, eating pork and saurkraut will give you good luck all year. And I have to say that I have been pretty lucky every year I have eaten this.
Our Traditional New Year's Day Meal:
1 rack of pork ribs
2 packs of refrigerated sauerkraut (NOT the stuff in the can!)
2 large cans of whole tomatoes
2-3 bay leaves
Put ingredients in a large stock pot and simmer on low for 6-8 hours. Remove bay leaves before serving.
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