by Cheryl Jackson Wednesday October 10, 2007

Our family has a lot of traditions. I'm not sure other people go quite as far as we do.

This past weekend we turned up the tradition meter about as high as it could go. Maybe we're just not very creative, or we're slightly obsessed, but our kids wouldn't have it any other way.

We started by inviting lots of people to join us for Thanksgiving. That's a feat for us, because most of our family lives several thousand kilometers away. But my husband's brother was working nearby, so we invited him and his wife. Her son was visiting about an hour away, so we invited him and his wife and children. We'd never met his wife or the kids, but they came bearing chocolate and a new baby, so we let them in. Then friends from the city called to say they were driving up to their country place, so we told them to come by too. Our kids loved having everyone around. Family makes them feel good. Sitting around the fire that night, the kids were trying to figure out if they were second cousins, or cousins twice removed, or maybe step cousins.

The real traditions, for us, however, are food. We love to eat, and cook, and we must have certain things at certain celebrations. When I asked my sister-in-law if she had something that MUST be on the menu, so we could include it, she gave me a wondering look, and a quiet "no". So...maybe it is just us, but that's just the way it is. That's what makes our family holidays FAMILY holidays.

So we must have brussel sprouts, we must have 24-hour salad, which my mother-in-law always made, and we must have pumpkin pie. And of course, we must put the turkey in the oven, then go for a hike, and come back to a house smelling like Thanksgiving. We didn't get around to the hike this year, and my daughter made sure we were aware that we messed up on our tradition.

Why do traditions matter so much to our kids? I don't really know, but I suspect that it has something to do with feeling like a cohesive group that understands each other, shares the same likes and dislikes, at least on occasion, and can connect with our history. We always talk about Nana when we make her salad, we always remember past hikes when the turkey is in the oven. That's the stuff that separates us from everyone else, so maybe that's why we do it.

And it tastes so good.