Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Children and Rituals

The holidays are approaching, and they are always a time for traditions. This will be our first Thanksgiving and Christmas in our new house, and our first with three kids, and our first with any sort of space. As we start to put down roots, we can start to choose which rituals and traditions we will do, and hence our kids will someday think of as "normal." If you think about it, this is a heady amount of power.

Families raising gifted kids have the additional element of the constant "whys." When it comes to rituals and traditions, these are often good questions -- from both the mundane to the profound. Why do we have hamburgers and hot dogs on Sunday nights? (Because it's easy and your father grew up having that for Sunday dinner. That's why). Why do we give gifts? Why do some kids celebrate different holidays? (and this at an age where you didn't think you'd be explaining such things). Why were the pilgrims so thankful for food? Did they not have food? Why? What happens when you don't have food?

I think this year will feature some sort of write-up of what we're thankful for, some Christmas cookie baking, a decorated tree with lots of kid-made ornaments, an Advent calendar, and such. I'd like to take the boys shopping for another child through one of the non-profits around here, but I'm not sure how that will go. I'd love to hear from people about what rituals and traditions they've introduced or kept up in their families, what their kids think and ask about them, and how you've figured ways to celebrate the meaning of the season with small kids.


Carcella-Johnson said...

For Christmas Eve our 2 sons and I place "luminaries" @ 100 on each side of our driveway. They are small white votive candles placed in an inch of sand inside a plastic 1/2 gallon milk container that we've cut the top off of.
It's a nice remembrance of the approaching holiday and lets them know "who" we are welcoming and waiting for not just the presents.

jheller said...

When the extended family gets together, every person donates some amount of money into a pool. Children tend to donate a small amount, and adults more money. The oldest child gets to choose a charity in which the money will be donated. We have done this for 5 holiday seasons, so we are on the 5th oldest child.

Anonymous said...

We focus on special family activities rather than shopping and wish lists. On Black Friday, we drive to a tree farm to cut a tree. The white pine we bring home won't be as pretty as the Fraser firs available at Home Depot, but we enjoy the expedition.

When my daughter was in elementary school, we created a gingerbread house to enter in a local contest each year: daughter sketched her concept for the house, Dad made a pattern and ensured that the house would stand up, and Mom helped with decoration. The creation and decoration of the house took several weeks. My daughter was thrilled to see her house (castle, lighthouse, cabin in the woods, etc) on display and she won several prizes.

We used to see the Nutcracker every year, but since daughter has outgrown the pink tutu stage, we now attend a singalong Messiah and a musical at the Kennedy Center for our holiday cultural event. Billy Elliot is the musical this year, can't wait.

Driving around looking at Christmas lights while singing along with carols on the radio is another (less expensive) favorite. Fortunately we live in an area where lots of homes are decorated.

My daughter loves crafts so she makes cards for the grandmothers (glitter, stickers, photos, lace, etc). The creations won't fit into an envelope to mail so they are tucked into a package. You've gotta love the cards and Valentines that are so encrusted with decorations that they won't stand up.

'Nother Barb said...

Every year, Granny sends a lovely holiday scene Advent calendar, and we also get a Lego Advent calendar. All 4 of us take turns opening doors. Our younger son loves math, so over the years he has gone from predicting whose turn is would be on any future day, to writing a math statement that assigns each person to a day.

Our other favorite tradition is to go to a tree farm and cut down our tree -- hopefully in our snowshoes! -- enjoy hot cider or cocoa and Danish butter cookies, then battle the tree for space in the minivan on the trip home.

We have extended family over on Christmas Eve, and the boys still love to set up the wooden train set for the younger kids, using as many bridges as possible.

Enjoy YOUR new home!

Twin Mom said...

We, too, celebrate Advent. I made a felt tree with symbols representing Bible stories that point to Christ's birth. Each day, we pin a new symbol to the tree, read the associated story (I change versions slightly in children's Bible story books as my kids age) and eat a chocolate from the window of the $1.29 grocery store Advent calendar (one calendar per child, hunting numbers is still a challenge)

We attend a Lessons and Carols service at church and a preschool program this year. We are donating pajamas to our local "children in need" program.

Anonymous said...

We have several: We bake and decorate cookies the weekend before Christmas and deliver plates of cookies to all the neighbors. We take one night to drive around and look at all the lights stopping half way through for cocoa and cookies. We have a tradition of decorating Thanksgiving weekend (sometimes even putting up the tree on Thanksgiving). AND we have chocolate gravy every Christmas morning. (Just like biscuits and gravy but the gravy is chocolate!) Has been passed down in the family. Sounds gross but is delicious.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your website as I have encountered a few gifted children in my tutoring career. But, doesn't anyone belong to a church or synagogue? How about doing what your religious faith suggests?