Friday, January 02, 2015

Family Traditions

Most families have traditions. Sometimes they become so automatic, we don't even think about them. Whether it is the tradition of having Thanksgiving dinner together, or sitting down for a meal together at least once a week, they become part of our annual life rhythms. And if you find yourself reading this without an ability to recall a tradition in your family, maybe this year can be the time to start one.

For as long as I can remember, my Aunt Flora and Uncle Russell have opened their home on New Year's Day for a family dinner. I can remember my mom making a couple of different desserts to bring over each year, and I can remember always finding a little extra room in my tummy for some of my Aunt Flora's homemade dinner rolls.

I remember one year my aunt said that how you spend the first day of the year is often an indicator of how you will spend your year. She didn't say it from a perspective of a resolution beginning or of some kind of superstition. It always felt to me like she was meaning that it was a good indicator of how we were using our time.

As I look back on many years of this tradition, I feel like there have been a few qualities that make it special and qualities with which I love to think, in the spirit of my aunt's comment, will fill my year.

People I love. While not all of our family is able to attend each year, I love the thought of spending the first day of the year with people for whom I care deeply. And while the folks gathered at my Aunt's may not be in the same space again for another twelve months, I love the thought of spending time with people I love as the year progresses.

Meaningful conversation. Whether on social media, or in person, it is all too easy to fill our days and hours with chatter that has very little substance or meaning. When our family gathers, I feel like it offers us all a time to catch-up, to reflect, and to talk about our dreams for the future. And to do that well, we need to be fully present with each other. Life is short and precious. Being fully present and experiencing the full presence of others as we reflect and dream is a wonderful way to spend our days and hours.

Games. Every year, as we gather at Russ and Flora's, we end up playing games like Rook, Catchphrase, Scattergories, Win, Lose, or Draw, or some other fun group game. Sometimes our daily routine can be so serious, but life is meant to be enjoyed. I hope that my year can always be filled with play.

Laughter. Whether it is a new joke at the dinner table or remembering funny stories from the past, our New Year's gatherings have always been characterized by laughter. Laughter is healing and great medicine for our spirits as we prepare for the year ahead or the day ahead.

Prayer. Every year, amidst the laughter, conversation, and food, we take a moment to give thanks as a family for the past year, and to pray in anticipation of the year ahead. Even if it is just for a few moments a day, prayer helps us stay rooted and focused in a world that can easily be filled with distractions.

May each of us, regardless of our own New Year's traditions, find our lives filled with meaningful conversation, play, laughter, prayer, and people we love. As the author Annie Dillard has stated, "How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives." May we each spend our days well, and may we fill our family traditions with those qualities that we want to build into our lives.

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