Every family has traditions. There’s the basic stuff like who hosts each holiday and who cooks and who never cooks (often determined by popular vote). And then there are the real memory-makers—the annual tacky Christmas light tour, the modified rules of dreidel, the double feature post-feast. How do you decorate the house? Where does everything go? What music do you listen to? And so on and so forth.
There are traditions that have always been a part of your family—like how my mother’s side of the family makes Norwegian lefse bread at Thanksgiving (“Why, Grandma?” “Because it’s Thanksgiving”)—and traditions that you begin intentionally. Either way, these rituals are comforting to us. There is something reassuring about consistency, and the things we choose to continue year after year say something about us. Traditions create a family identity and reveal the things we value and cherish most.
(WARNING: When establishing new family traditions, take care. They’re nearly impossible to change. So if you pick pancakes as your Valentine’s Day breakfast, you’re going to be having pancakes every year to the end of eternity. Don’t even think about suggesting French toast. It just ain’t gonna happen.)
Establishing a “New Tradition”
(Now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.)
One of my favorite mantras is “Celebrate EVERYTHING.” Report cards, growing an inch, pet birthdays, you name it. All worthy of celebration and ritual. But national holidays are a great way to jump on the tradition-building bandwagon, so (due to the time of year) let’s talk Christmas.
During the holiday season, there are so many things open to creative interpretation. Between the tree, the decorating, the food, the activities, the gift giving, the gift opening, the family time, and the jolly-making, you’ll have no trouble coming up with something completely unique.
The best Christmas rituals will involve the whole family, including the new additions as they come along. While the original idea is often serendipitous, it’s the follow-through that turns the memory into a tradition. For those who are still waiting for inspiration to strike, I have recently discovered a worthy Christmas-tradition-in-a-box available for purchase.
The Elf on the Shelf
Combine two of my favorite things—reading and believing—with the “huckle buckle beanstalk” game and what do you get? The Elf on the Shelf! This is a relatively new product for Learning Express, and its still just starting to catch on in certain areas. The typical elf shows up sometime around Thanksgiving to scout out who’s being naughty or nice in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Upon arrival, the elf needs a name, which can be registered online at the North Pole section of www.elfontheshelf.com. Every night after that, once the wee ones are in bed, the elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Herr Claus. Each morning the elf reappears in a brand new spot. First one to find him wins!
Form: The packaging of the product is a beautiful box set, perfect for gift-giving. It includes the 12" elf himself and a 16-page hardcover book for reading aloud. Mr. Elf is made in a style reminiscent of the 1950s, which took me a little while to get used to, but in the end I’ve decided he’s quite endearing. The book tells an adorable story in rhyming verse with only the occasional clunky phrase, which is more than compensated by the elegant watercolor illustration. All in all, the package is of high quality and well worth the price point.
Function: Entertainment value is high on this one, with the potential for plenty of imaginative play. All the reviews and feedback are incredibly positive, but I think this is really about what you make of it. The product certainly provides you with all you need to build a wonderful tradition.
Fun: Big ol’ thumbs up for this category, I have to say. I can’t wait to start this in my house. Beyond the charm of the story, having an elf in the house helps create the festive atmosphere. I think finding the elf every morning could make for some great family time as well, which may be particularly useful if you’ve got kids who are slow getting out of bed.
Regardless of whether you buy it, borrow it, or invent it, a tradition is a very special gift. And who knows, maybe something you begin this holiday season will find its way into your children’s lives and get passed on to their children, and their children’s children. Celebrate EVERYTHING.
Wishing you a very happy holiday season!
- Toy Talker