Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Making Up Your Own

In high school and college, I gravitated to ethnic friends. Being the only child of divorced parents growing up in a Midwestern homogenous suburb- I craved a cultural identity with all the traditions that came with it. Other than a turkey at Thanksgiving and a tree at Christmas, I really can’t remember many family traditions. One of the joys of adulthood has been discovering that I can start my own traditions. The word itself comes from the Latin root traditio: to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping or an inheritance. So here are a few that my husband and I have given to our children:

- For Father’s Day, I always make my husband a best of video of the kids.
-We drink Sunkist orange soda while watching the hot dog eating contest on July 4th. No matter where we are, we are the like the Simpsons in the opening credits when they all end up in front of the TV.
-Birthdays mean each child gets a photo album of their previous year.
-On Valentine’s Day, we make heart shaped home made pizzas and an edible fruit “flower bouquet”.
-We start planning a new theme for Halloween months in advance. Everybody has input.
-The Sunday before Christmas, you will always find us at the matinee of It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen at Tampa’s 1920‘s movie house. We go early to sing along carols to Wurlitzer organ music.

This year, I added three more traditions. For Christmas, I asked my family to give me live plants. The criteria: the flowers have to smell wonderful or the plant has to bear fruit. I was hoping for one plant from each child. My vision is our yard will eventually be filled with gifts. Each time a plant blooms, I will remember my children at the age they were when they gave it to me. New Year’s Day is now planting day.  Of course, we will need a bigger yard if these traditions stick. I received a lemon tree, two rose bushes, a jasmine bush and a gardenia tree. The third tradition really was an afterthought. On our way to a New Year’s Day party, we got lost and kept passing the same house with a huge Poinsettia bush. More like a hedge. Maybe even a tree. It was giant and brilliant red. So today, instead of tossing our poinsettias out as we normally do when all the decorations come down, we replanted them on the side of the house that is just extra space. If they survive, I can see us doing the same with our Easter lillies. 

For me, the best part of a tradition is coming to expect it. The constancy. That is just what we do. It is our thing. As I begin the month focus on childlike persistence, all these traditions got me thinking about habits.  Both are passed down or given to our kids. Eating habits. Work habits. Exercise. They will be remembered or inherited too. I guess the main difference is habits so often are unconscious patterns. Traditions are intentional. Sure, It is easier to carry on a once-a-year custom. But what if we treated our everyday habits a little more like a family tradition? 

Have you ever made up your own tradition?

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn: Did you know the word atone doesn't just mean to make it's root, it is the connection of the words at one or being a single entity characterized by unity? Tonight at a meditation, they offered a oneness blessing which is an energy practice derived from an Indian guru who believes all beings are connected and has since founded Oneness University. 

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