During moments of frustration, the question has been asked, “Who came up with this idea of a birthday party?” Only to be rewarded by the look of pure joy of those being honored at the festivities. Then the conclusion is that that one magical moment was worth the trouble and headache to provide such an event!
While reading these chapters 6 & 8 of William Doherty’s book, The Intentional Family, I could not help but laugh at the different situations others found themselves in and at myself. On so many levels I found myself relating to the experiences of birthday rituals, parental holidays and Christmas holidays.
Coming from a farming family - work and the necessary chores of taking care of the land and animals were far more important than celebrating in grand style the passage of time for individual family members. A special dinner, gift and cake were all that was significant for the day. My husband’s family of 12 children, and a WWII era British-born mother, they too experienced the same recognition. But things have changed.
Truly, I have personally seen how we have become a nation that has evolved in celebrating yearly birthdays, and I have been guilty of perpetuating this mania. Thankfully, my time of birthday celebrations for young children has ended and the torch has been passed. However, after years of experience, I am willing to pass on my insights, if asked, to this perception of what should be sustainable in this world of merriment observance we have created!
Most families want to create an environment in which our children feel loved and cherished, and that is an admirable quality of parents, but at the expense of public celebration - who does it honestly benefit? There are moments of pleasure, and memories are surely to ensue. But it is the intentional and intimate rituals that have far more meaning and importance. Doherty’s personal example of his father-in-law’s 80th birthday party, surrounded by loved ones and sharing their communal love and admiration for this important man. The spirit of the celebration was memorable.
Doherty writes of a ritual that his family has instituted, an “appreciation ritual.” Personally I find this refreshing and have considered how I can implement this into my family. As Doherty continues, it is an emotional gift that lasts longer than a finely decorated present.
Around November of each year, I sometime listen to the “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger’s radio show. I am amazed at the amount of calls she receives regarding the dynamics and turmoil families encounter during the holidays. It is evident of the joy and pain this holiday can create. Yet, as Doherty explains, “Christmas amnesia” sets in, and families continue to carry on traditions, that so easily could be tweaked to create an unforgettable occasion.
In my family circumstance we have had to make changes to accommodate the ever changing landscape of our family dynamics. It was so much simpler to attend to our nuclear family’s needs of long ago.
Our Christmases together have only two elements that we have not changed – and that is going caroling, and our Christmas Eve Mexican dinner—that is our tradition. However, because of struggling finances of young families, we have set limits or opted out of gift exchanges. One daughter created a “gift store” in which the grandchildren purchase a toy for the cousin exchange, which will become a tradition. Another family tradition of catching Santa Clause early Christmas morning is not a yearly occurrence, but one treasured when done every few years.
When not spending Christmas together as an extended family, we each extend a welcome to those who are alone. Christmas time is about connecting and finding a linkage to our past, and that is hard to do if you are all by yourself.
Making memories are what celebrations and holidays are all about. Whether it is done by a traditional dish or chain of events, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are together, loved ones and those who need a loving hand of fellowship. Intentional in plan and purpose.