Parenting: The power of holiday traditions

December 3, 2010

As I've written before in this blog, I think one of the most important things we can give our children is family traditions and childhood memories. Making family meals is a big undertaking - I took the day off from work and spent the whole day setting the table and cooking. I was thinking of changing the menu, making a main course other than brisket. But the boys vetoed that idea. They wanted the same dinner we always have. When I cleared the table, just one slice of brisket, zero matza balls and zero latkes were left uneaten. So, I guess the traditional food was a success.

But even more than the food, I enjoyed the moment when each of the kids joined me in lighting his (or her) own menorah and everyone at the table joined in singing the traditional blessings. I had neglected to put menorahs out for my nephew and Jason's girlfriend - until my sons insisted they get them. Again, it's a tradition that we have had for years that they wanted to share.

Of course, for kids, the highlight of the night is opening presents. But this year, the boys asked for only a few things each. None of the gifts was terribly extravagant. Still, as everyone took turns opening presents, there was the usual chaos of flying paper and ribbons, along with shouts of joy and laughter as particularly appropriate or thoughtful or funny gifts were opened. And Jason and Billy both impressed me by independently buying presents for each other. Clearly, they have learned the tradition of giving - a most important lesson of this holiday season.

Sometimes, as parents, we want to just skip the effort it takes to make a holiday the traditional way. It's sometimes easier to order from Amazon and go out to eat. But creating traditions is so important, whether it's putting certain ornaments on the tree, or placing the Kinara in certain spot of honor, these holiday efforts far more worthwhile, and far more memorable, than this year's "hot" toy or electronic will ever be.

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