In Praise of Tradition

“We couldn’t read My Haunted House in school because there is a girl who doesn’t celebrate Halloween in our class.”

Jeffrey had excitedly taken one of our holiday reads to school to share with his class, but this child was now deflated.

Without thinking, I immediately responded.

“I was that girl.”

This quieted my boy, and I could see the wheels spinning in his head. My children know that I grew up in the Jehovah’s Witness faith. They know that I did not celebrate holidays as a child. But whenever reminded of this, they are like ones stricken…struggling to understand.

“Did you not…was your class not allowed to have a party because of you?”

He was trying to figure out what he wanted to know. I could sense it was about more than a party.

“No, they always had a party. Even dressed up to go to school. The teachers sent my brothers and sister and I to the library while the others ate their treats and played games.”

This produced more silence. Then:

“I’m sorry, mommy.”

He wrapped his little arms around me and buried his face in my chest, truly grieving for the young me.

“It’s okay, honey. We actually had fun in the library. There was no one there to supervise us (can you imagine?), so we made up our own games.”

I remembered a time when a very large boa constrictor was visiting our school for Halloween. We, as the exiled ones, had the privilege of spending the afternoon with the slimy guy. We even got to see him eat a mouse.

That was one of my most memorable experiences as a child. Holed up in the library with my older brother and sister (younger brother must not have been in school yet…that would have placed me in the first grade), standing around that terrarium in awe.

I don’t have a lot of memories from my childhood. I have only recently realized the role our faith played in this lack. There were no birthday cakes, no late night Christmas church services, no large family gatherings for Thanksgiving.

Our family held no traditions.

When I look back, there is a smattering of special memories. But it is difficult to put a time on these mind-movies because they took place in reference to little.

Perhaps that is why I enjoy the celebrations so much now. I have tried to create rich traditions for my children. I rejoice in their joy at tiny milestones, knowing one day they will say, “Remember when?”

One piece of advice I would give to all new parents is to develop special family traditions. It brings the family closer now, and always. Traditions create a glue for our memories.

We have a stack of books like this for every holiday. About mid-October these come out and delight us every year. Some beloved scripts are memorized. All the better for sharing.

Every year each boy picks his own pumpkin from our local farmer’s market.

They draw their design for me and their daddy to carve.

Mucking out. A task worth sharing. No fun unless you get goopy.

Picking out the seeds.

Even Lucy Mae loves roasted pumpkin seeds. A little butter, garlic, salt…yummm.

Our haunted house. Complete with pig and tiger sculpture (a class project).

The front porch welcomes our neighborhood spooks on Trick-or-Treat night.


  1. says

    What a tender heart your young fella has. We have tons of traditions around here too.
    While you are in the process of raising a family it is just part of the doing but all too soon comes the time when you look back with a bit of melancholy and realize that yes those “traditions” are indeed the glue for memories.
    Before you know it those boys will be men, carving pumpkins with their own little ones, all the while reminiscing the pumpkins you helped them with. What a blessing!


  2. says

    Big lessons for little guys to learn …. ! And isn’t it the truth? Being united, together for a cause, a truth is very powerful. All our root needs right there are met: belonging, purpose and acceptance or love.

    Although I have to say, realising that I’m not from the US, and don’t have any knowledge about this holiday, …. I don’t get halloween.

  3. says

    I fully support the idea of developing traditions–I could leave out Halloween, however, without feeling I was keeping my kids from rich tradition.

    In Not So Fast I have a chapter about traditions, pointing out that kids often tell time in relation to traditions (Pancakes made by Dad? Must be Saturday morning! Advent wreath comes out? Must be four Sundays till Christmas!).

    How sad to hear that your family of origin didn’t provide any of those kinds of “pegs” from which you could “hang” childhood memories.

    But how lovely that you are making them for your own family today!

  4. says

    I think it wonderful that you have made such special traditions for your boys. I cannot imagine my own childhood without them. You are creating a loving legacy for your sons to pass on to their own children some day.

  5. says

    I love this story of your traditions. It makes me want to go upstairs, wake up my kids and start carving pumpkins. Although, since it’s midnight I think I’ll wait until tomorrow!

    I grew up with some, but not a lot, of traditions. As a result, I’m not a real traditional person. But reading your post gave me new appreciation for the importance of these activities to provide anchors and touchstones.

    Enjoy your day of candy gathering. 🙂

  6. says

    Laura, As usual I loved reading your heart… I always do… I am blessed to see the love you share with your children. I am blessed to see you!

    You are a true beauty!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *