One of the first decisions I made after getting divorced was to make time to celebrate the little moments, every day. While going through my basement I realized my good wedding china was still in the shipping boxes, taped up, unused for 10 years while I was married. I had been waiting for the right time to use the china. What I learned was that there is never the perfect time. I decided to begin celebrating every moment I had with those around me.
As I unpacked the boxes, I made a vow to make moments special and create memories. We don’t wait for holidays to celebrate each other – we make our own holidays now!! Fancy dinners, picnics in the backyard under a canopy or ice cream parties for breakfast are magical for the girls. Over time, new traditions were born that the girls look forward to: Strawberry Dinner, Upside Down Day, Equinox & Solstice Fairy celebrations, and Mermaid Dinners.
Strawberry Dinner was my daughter Mina’s idea about 3 years ago. She wanted to do a special dinner for her sister Allegra’s birthday. Allegra absolutely loves strawberries and Mina wondered if we could do a whole meal using strawberries: dinner, drinks, desserts, decorations. Why not? We spent the day creating a strawberry garland out of felt and yarn, hung it from the ceiling over the table and decorated the table with red and white dotted table cloth from the thrift store.
Next we came up with a menu that included strawberry milk, strawberry soup, and chocolate pasta with strawberry sauce. Allegra was beyond thrilled and the girls had so much fun that it has now become an annual tradition at the end of January to have a Strawberry dinner. It is a fun challenge for me each year to come up with a new strawberry-themed menu! During dessert, the girls find out which ballets we will be attending around Valentine’s Day and Easter. One tradition leads into the next, creating excitement and anticipation as we move from winter into spring.
Upside-Down Day can happen any time – that’s the beauty of it! In a nutshell, we eat backwards throughout the day, beginning with ice cream or dessert for breakfast, dinner for lunch and breakfast for dinner. It’s pretty much a sugar-fest by the time the day is done and the girls LOVE to invite friends over for Upside Down Day! It’s funny to see their friends’ confused faces when they are invited over for ice cream sundae breakfasts or stuffed French toast for dinner! It is so much fun for me as a parent to wake up and spontaneously announce “Wake up! It’s Upside Down Day!!” I think it should become a new national holiday!!
I love to celebrate the seasons with my little witches! Each year on the Summer Solstice, the girls decorate the yard and make a solstice mandala on the grass, ring some bells, and wake up the summer fairies. Last year, they even created a little song and danced around the mandala under the moonlight. They wake the fairies to help care for our garden so that we have lots of fruits and vegetables. By fall, it’s time for the fairies to rest. The girls grab their little baskets, take a nature walk around the block and tell the fairies it’s time to sleep for the winter and thank them for taking care of our garden. The treasures from the nature walk decorate our harvest dinner as we all come together to celebrate the Fall Equinox.
Finally, we have perfected Mermaid Dinners. First and foremost, wearing mermaid tails is mandatory for dinner! Then, we make homemade spinach pasta, our “seaweed.” Next, we create little octopuses out of hotdogs. If you cut the bottom part of the hotdog, keeping the slices still attached to the main end of the hotdog, the strips will curl up like octopus legs once you cook them up. Once my little mermaids have eaten their seaweed and octopuses, they can have mango starfish popsicles. We host Mermaid Dinners when the girls have a lot of friends over. They decorate the yard or the dining room with blue cloth, shells, and other sea-themed things from my craft room. Feeling like they are eating under water is an important element to the dinner that adds that extra touch.
All these celebrations began as an idea from one of the girls. If we are to expand on a theme, we gather together and ask probing questions about how to implement the idea or project: How do you see that working? What do we already have as decorations? If you were a mermaid, what would you eat? …etc. I am willing to help to a point, but they know I won’t do anything unless there is an executable plan. Sometimes there are trips to the thrift store, sometimes we repurpose things, but most often the girls create or decorate themselves. Not only are they learning that creating celebrations take thought and time, they are also problem-solving and thinking outside the box for other possibilities.
Creating celebrations in our family began not as a way to do more, but to gather together in our own way. Being a blended family, traditional holidays are hard for us because the girls may be with their other parents. Christmas, Thanksgiving, even birthday’s get tricky when it comes to time-sharing, so we decided to do our own thing. Our self-created celebrations focus on quality time together and honoring our special dynamic. Little by little, our family unit becomes stronger because these moments are the little bits of glue, keeping us solid and together. What sorts of new traditions can you create with your own family that are just yours, honoring your own family “specialness”?
Photo credit: John-Mark Smith