As 2009 draws to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions. What is a tradition? Do you have to keep doing it just because you always have? How do traditions get started?
While I was visiting my family in Michigan over Christmas, we decided to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens
, a favorite Grand Rapids attraction, to see the beautiful “Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World”
exhibit. More than 40 trees and displays representing the holiday traditions of countries, ethnicities and religions dotted the hallways, each inviting the visitor to explore a new holiday tradition from somewhere outside their own world. Some sparkled with intricate glass ornaments and elaborate embellishments, while some were so familiar, with colored lights and homemade ornaments, that I could imagine them in my own living room.
The first possible tradition I encountered was the blizzard. The last time we visited this exhibit as a family was also during a blizzard. Have we now made it a tradition to brave the inclement weather in the spirit of Christmas around the world? Should we try to keep up this tradition? It seems dangerous, albeit likely considering the high possibility we will, regardless of our own wills, encounter a blizzard on Christmas weekend in Michigan.
The second tradition I encountered has to do with oranges. My sister and I never knew why our mother would always put oranges in our stockings—until we got to the Netherlands tree. Nestled between blue and white Delftware ornaments and handpainted wooden shoes were oranges galore. Our Dutch mother, it turns out, put oranges in our stockings because her Dutch mother put oranges in her children’s stockings, and her mother’s Dutch mother put oranges in her children’s stockings, and so on. A tradition is born.
Be it oranges, blizzards, orange blizzards (Dairy Queen, anyone?)—traditions are unique, and meaningful, and I believe they come and go with time. Maybe I’ll put oranges in my children’s stockings someday, or maybe I’ll realize that kids like regular candy much more. It’s fun to try something new and see if you like it enough to make it a tradition. Here a few ideas for the coming year:
Gather your (adult) family members or friends and sign up for a night of Hearthside Suppers
. The Conner House in winter is magical, cozy and perfectly quaint. If your experience is anything like mine was, you’ll want to come back year after year.
o Try out a Prairie Tykes class
with your 2-5 year old. I often notice many of the same families when I stop in to the different classes, a tell-tale sign of a tradition-worthy experience.
o Come see our baby animals
on opening weekend for our outdoor areas, March 27 and 28. No matter how hard the winter was or how restless the kids are getting, baby animals are a momentary panacea.
Whatever you choose, we invite you into the new year with us and hope you’ll see it as an opportunity to explore, discover and experience
the world around you in new and exciting ways.