We went to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) today and it got me thinking about traditions and rituals. Since our daughter was 18 months old, we’d been taking her every year to this annual fair, which in Toronto, is somewhat of a rite of passage for many families as the summer winds down and all thoughts turn to fall and back-to-school. In some, the opening of the CNE instills dread, as it marks the near-end of summer. But mostly, it’s a fun, time-honoured tradition for many Toronto families, filled with kitsch, unstable midway rides and lots of cholesterol-inducing overindulgence. My husband did dare to try the much pre-hyped “donut cheeseburger”, a cheeseburger sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme donuts; I kid you not.
Traditions and rituals – whether they cause us good stress or bad stress (think Christmas holidays!) – have a way of providing us with comfort, not unlike the way routines do for children. They give us a sense of stability, predictability, control, order. As a child or teenager, if you went on a family vacation every year to the same location, it would feel strange if you suddenly stopped or you skipped a year. You might have felt a piece of you was missing. Traditions also provide us with a treasure trove of memories and stories to pass down to generations (“Remember that Thanksgiving when Cousin Peter dropped the pumpkin pie coming from the kitchen into the dining room?”).
When you start your own family, it’s also nice to start your own traditions and rituals. For us, things like the CNE, our annual fall retreat to Prince Edward County and our winter escapes to Florida have become events we get excited about. What my husband and I find the most fun is when our daughter brings up a memory months after these events. Those moments validate for us the importance of these new traditions. They are building a fountain of memories from which our daughter can draw on in her youth and adulthood and give her a sense of love for life. They will form a part of her for years to come.
What are some of your most memorable traditions from your youth?