The holidays are a time of traditions, and families with young children are in a position to create new and wonderful traditions that they hope their children will long remember.
But while we adults picture the festive holiday meals and the visits to Santa, traditions in a child’s mind can be very different.
I’ll take an example from my own childhood. My mom once bought a tissue 3-d Santa that fit over a lampshade. It was cheap and flimsy, but I adored it and insisted on it being displayed every single year until I went to college. I’m amazed it didn’t “acccidentally” get lost or destroyed. My mom, as much as she protested and probably hated that thing, knew how much it meant to me.
My own children remember the oddest details. Wasabi Girl remembers that we “always” watch the Wizard of Oz on Halloween, and stop it at a certain scene to go trick-or-treating. As I recall, we did that exactly once, but she insists that it’s what we must do every year now.
Christmas Eve, the kids put out a favorite stuffed animal near the tree to wait (and talk to) Santa. Before they could read their names on packages, this was a good way for Santa to leave their loot in nice sorted piles. I would think we had outgrown this now, but they remember it and repeat this tradition which we probably began in their infancy.
If I had it to do over again, with very small children, I would plan some more traditions that I’ve read of, like a new set of pajamas on Christmas Eve and doing something charitable every year. But it’s not the planned traditions that always stick with a child, it’s the magic that happens when adults slow down and pay attention to the wonder of the seasons.
So this Thanksgiving, make time for some small, wonderful moments, and then record them for yourself. Try them again next year to see what your child remembers. You might be surprised. And if you have older children, include them in the planning and ask them about their favorite parts of the holidays. Everyone has their own definition of traditions, we just have to find which ones mean the most to each person.