Thursday, 12 December 2013

Christmas, family and the electric fence - building great traditions

As I mentioned in my recent articles, I just love Christmas. Christmas is a great time of year for traditions.

I’ve decided after much thought and observation, that traditions create a sense of security, comfort and togetherness. Traditions shape childhood memories, and they are usually fond ones (unless your family traditions included walking barefooted through a bindi patch on Christmas Eve…unlucky).  Traditions may just be something you have just always done. It doesn’t have to have any great meaning behind it, it doesn’t have to be symbolic or spiritual, it just has to be done…and then done again the next time…and then the time after that (that’s what makes it a tradition).

The familiarity and predictability of rituals or traditions not only create a sense of security, but are also a great source of fun, excitement and anticipation.

We live in such a fast paced techno-gadgety-digital-drivethru-world I think it’s good to take a time out from it, and spend some quality time with the fam-bam making warm and fuzzy memories.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it usually involves quality time, which means not staring at your phone the whole time. Sometimes as a parent I actually have to force myself to not take a photo, and to just be in the moment. I do like taking photos, but I don’t want my view of my children’s lives to only be through the screen of a iPhone held at arms length.

Growing up there was an entire neighbourhood that would decorate their houses with painted timber cut outs (of Santa, elves, Nativities etc) and lights. Unbelievably fairy light weren’t invented when I was a kid (does that mean I’m old?). The lights people used were those big coloured light bulbs on a string or spotlights shining on the cut outs. Our family (with many others) made it a tradition every year to walk the whole neighbourhood and oooh and aaah at all the displays. It was pure magic!

We also used to visit a particularly nice Nativity scene at a shopping centre. I remember every year trying to see baby Jesus’ face in the manger…I could never quite see it. I would have loved to climb over the railing and pick him up and just get a good look at Him.

On Christmas Eve we started having a family dinner with all our extended family. There were all the usual festive foods, crackers, carols and laughter. Christmas Eve dinner has become a real highlight for me.

Christmas morning, after the presents, we went to church. All the kids proudly taking along their favourite toy and blatantly showing it off to all the other kids doing the same thing.

Christmas lunch, we again had a family meal with the extended family. On both sides of my family it was tradition that the family patriarch would be ‘Santa’ and sit by the Christmas tree and call the cousins names out to come and get their presents!!   

With my kids, we still do dinner on Christmas Eve, we look at light displays, but I’ve started a new tradition of going to a Christmas tree farm and cutting down a real tree. We also have a craft day with the cousins and make something Christmassy. This year we are making candles and decorating pine cones.

This was last years tree selection process. What this picture doesn't convey is how hot it was...42 degrees!! Far different from the snow dusted scenes in story books. 'Watch out for snakes' I kept reminding them, which was a bit silly as it would have been way too hot for snakes.
My Dutch friend told me about Sinterklass (Dutch Santa). Apparently his birthday is the 6th of December, he was a real person after all, and if you leave your shoe by the fireplace before his birthday, he comes and leaves chocolate and biscuits in your shoe!! We did it this year and the kids thought it was great so that’s a new tradition that we are going to adopt.

We have loads of little traditions that I won’t bore you with, but the important thing is we do them, and we have fun as a family. Hopefully one day my kids will pass these traditions down to their kids.
This years selection process. Chose a much milder day, and waited until late afternoon...very pleasant.

For kids the Christmas magic is in the belief and in the anticipation, for parents the magic is in watching their children’s excited faces and I imagine for grandparents the magic is watching their children watch their children. Now that would be pretty special.

So what are your family traditions? Inheritance isn’t always money or property…it may be a tradition you have started!

We all probably have some similar traditions like carols, crackers, paper hats and ham, but why don't you start a new one that is unique and meaningful to your family. "Now come on family its time to tie an onion on your belt and all hold hands while grandpa touches the electric fence."

I'd love to hear about any special or unique traditions your family keeps.

Have fun and be merry and keep family traditions alive.


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