I internally cringe when people ask Leo if he got presents from Santa. It’s a complex cringe – with a pinch of guilt that we haven’t imparted much at all about all that Christmas stuff people go on about to Leo, and a dash of my own feelings about Santa which amounts to thinking he’s a big money-making load of bollocks. We won’t take Leo to have a photo with Santa unless he asks when he’s older (which seems to be seen as depriving him of his rights as a child in some people’s eyes), but I’ve seen so many kids screaming with fear at being put in the lap of a stranger in a ridiculously big fake beard. It also wasn’t something I ever did as a kid so I kind of don’t get it.
I have a German friend who lives in Canada, and still follows all of the gorgeous German seasonal traditions with her kids and that doesn’t make me cringe in the slightest. In fact I wish I could have grown up with those traditions. They seem to mostly involve getting little chocolates in your shoes and then getting to eat chocolate for breakfast, making things together and marking the passing of the seasons. There’s definitely also some cultural cringe and grass being greener going on for me against what I grew up surrounded by.
When we lived in the Northern Hemisphere for one year and it all the traditions of that part of the world that we follow made sense in a way it never had before. Easter is the coming of spring, Halloween is the coming of winter and it does feel appropriate to be dressing up and going out in the dark night to celebrate the coming of the spirits of winter (rather than Aussie kids coming over for sweets when it’s still light outside at 8pm at night!). Christmas made sense – all that baking and dried fruit, all the Christmas cards with snow on them, and robin red breasts and mistletoe and holly. I was like “ohhhh, it all makes sense now”. Christmas with my family has always been a really low key affair. Salads, way too much dessert, and when I was a meat eater the obligatory leg of lamb as a nod to the mother country. I can’t remember ever believing in Santa but I must have because I remember when I found out he wasn’t real and I didn’t tell any of my friends because I didn’t want to burst their bubble, but I felt very superior knowing.
I love traditions which I consider to be meaningful and my family had some I remember lovingly, such as Thursday “egg night” – adding all manner of crazy leftovers to an omelette-like concoction. My Dad wrote in his diary EVERY night and Mum kept one too. He has a whole bookshelf of his diaries at home because he’s kept one since he was 14.
The traditions that have meaning for me are the ones that connect you with others, or acknowledge your connection with the Earth and its the seasons. So, I wanted to take this chance to think of some of the traditions we are forming as a family.
We take a photo of ourselves with something that shows the age we’re turning every year. Jeff and I started this when we first got together. Leo has had three so far.
We each keep a life diary with a couple of lines per month for every year of your life. Significant stuff is recorded here. Jeff and I actually started this one separately which is pretty cool and for the moment we’re writing in Leo’s book until he’s ready to take over (or chuck it in the bin). I’ve used old diaries to fill in years before I started the diary.
Every year until Leo tells me to stop I will print out photos of whatever his favourite things are at the time of his birthday and stick them on his bunting.
We started a tradition of hosting a street Easter Egg hunt in our backyard this year and we also had a street Christmas party with two paddling pools out the front of the houses for the kids. I hope those two continue.
Then there are the smaller traditions which will come and go – getting burritos in Newtown and then sharing a gelato, Leo having a swing after his nap, Leo birthing baby tigers from his tummy and sharing them with us, walking each other to the station when one of us goes to work… Having a small child part of the fun is forming these new traditions and letting them grow and change as your child does.