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Creating Traditions

on November 28th, 2012 at 6:46:42 PM
A Book to Look For: 

By Donna DeSoto

I don’t know how it is at your house, but around mine, we’re always looking for ways to celebrate. We must not be alone. The other night, my family was hunkered down in sleeping bags, lanterns poised, batteries and cell phone nearby, awaiting the arrival of hurricane Isabel. The wind was just picking up, the lights were flickering, and we four made the best of the wait to see if we would be in the pate of the storm. As the sky made the transformation from gray to dark, we were startled by a light knock on the front door. Who could it be, we wondered.

In the flickering glow of the porch light, there stood Ashley, our new next-door teenaged neighbor, with a bright smile on her face. “I made you some Hurricane Brownies!” she announced. We “ooooohed.” We “ahhhhhhhed.” Ashley bolted for her house as the rain started to get serious, and we plopped down on our sleeping bags and enjoyed the very best fresh-out-of-the-oven Hurricane Brownies we ever ate. Minutes later, we lost electricity, and for the next couple of days we learned to cope without any of our modern conveniences. But we will love Ashley forever because of that Thursday night, for those Hurricane Brownies.

In The Book of New Family Traditions, Meg Cox says, “I’d like to say that family ritual is pretty much anything families do together deliberately, as long as it’s juiced up with some flourish that lifts it above humdrum routine. Repeated words or actions, special food or music, or a heightened sense of attention can provide the juice. I wouldn’t call it a ritual if you sometimes sit on the front steps and blow bubbles with your kids, but if you do it every Friday and then have graham crackers and milk and call it your ‘welcome-to-the-weekend party,’ that’s definitely a family ritual.”

The Book of New Family Traditions:

How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Everyday

          by Meg Cox

 Visit Meg Cox's website and blog


There are things in this book that my family already does. My kids each get to choose one hooky day a year to hang out with me and do something special. My mom called this our “mental health” day, when she did this when we were kids. There are things in this book that my family will never do. We won’t be celebrating half-birthdays with the half-a-cake celebration because, well, a mom has to draw the line on birthdays somewhere. And then there are some new things I plan to try.

One I will try from this book is the “poor sweet baby” ritual. When a member of the family comes home after a bad day, another family member takes a special blanket out of the closet and wraps it around the “suffering one.” Everyone gives that person extra hugs and consoling attention. I have the perfect poor sweet baby blanket. I made a quilt in the middle of winter last year, in between all of the snow days we spent at home. I didn’t make it for anyone in particular, and the colors—sort of a patriotic navy, brick and cream—don’t match anywhere in the house. Since I made it, it’s been in a closet. Now that the power has finally been restored after the storm, and our house is just about back to normal, I plan to put that blanket to use for the first family member who has a bad day this week. As I sit here thinking about all of the food that spoiled in the refrigerator and freezer, and about all the raking that still needs to be done in the backyard, I realize I am that family member. I need to wrap that blanket around myself and quietly mutter “poor sweet baby”—to me!

Cox says there are ten good things rituals do for children. They impart a sense of identity, provide comfort and security, help to navigate change, teach values, pass on ethnic or religious heritage, teach practical skills, solve problems, keep alive a sense of departed family members, help heal from loss or trauma, and generate wonderful memories. “The special power of ritual is that it can slow time and heighten our senses, and by doing so, we can intensify and deepen our family ties. Learning simple ways to create unforgettable traditions is what this book is all about.” As good as that Hurricane Brownie was, I hope we don’t have to experience that ritual again anytime soon!

© 2003 by Donna DeSoto