For better or for worse, every family has traditions. Hopefully the traditions in your family are ones that you enjoy. When my daughter (The Girlie) was tiny, I was paralyzed by the notion of having to CREATE family traditions. I pressured myself to come up with meaningful moments for my little family, and worried that no one would like them. I have friends, now, who are empty nesters. This year they are working to redefine some of their traditions, with family away at school. How wonderful — something in the future for me to worry about, now….
One of my little family’s most honored traditions involves a special hat reserved only for birthday wear. This is a new tradition for our family that my husband and I started before we had children. We were out shopping one day and saw this magnificent wizard hat, and I think it chose us; it was as if the hat was looking for a larger role than dress up. The Birthday Hat is made of dark blue velvet. It has a silver holographic rim and sparkly embroidered stars on the sides. It’s magnificent, really. Our tradition requires the birthday person to wear this cap while everyone sings Happy Birthday, but past that, there are no rules. I suppose if someone wanted to wear it all day long they could, but that hasn’t happened yet. The Girlie is usually the one who makes sure people put it on for photos – I think the Birthday Hat has impressed itself upon her the most.
Another tradition for our family happens at Hanukkah time. On one of the eight nights of the holiday, we have a potluck-ish sort of party I named LatkeFest. It’s nothing fancy, and I love it. People come over with their families to nosh and socialize, and I fry MANY latkes. Latkes are savory potato pancakes, and most people eat them with either applesauce or sour cream. At LatekFest, my house is filled with laughter and good food… and for a few hours, time slows down a little.
One year, my Mom chose to bring a batch of Sangria to LatkeFest. This was a huge surprise to me because my Mom doesn’t drink alcohol. To be fair, she had no intention of drinking it herself, but she thought it looked “interesting”, and wanted to see if others would like it. As it turned out, the Sangria was a HUGE success. Everybody liked it, and her supply ran dry early in the evening. Ever since then, it has become a staple item at the party – friends walk in, take off their coats, and often ask for a cup of Sangria before even saying hello. It’s now our Hanukkah tradition. Who could have guessed that the combination of sangria, hot latkes, and cold Minnesota winters would be a winner?
Message of the Day: The Birthday Hat and sangria are only props to our family’s larger scene. Traditions may start with something tangible, but they stay with the energy and memories created year after year.