Timeless Traditions

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6. Find Your Roots

All of us come from diverse backgrounds, so it's fun to pick one cultural strand and celebrate a tradition from it or prepare a special food for the holiday dinner. If you're of Dutch origin, for example, you could get wooden shoes for the children to place outside their bedroom doors on the eve of St. Nicholas's Day, December 6 (St. Nick comes by and fills them with chocolate and candy). If you're Irish, you and your children can decorate your home with holly, which grows wild in the south of Ireland. Or you can head to the library or go online to look up the meaning of the Mishumaa Saba (the Seven Candles) of Kwanzaa. You can also appreciate the customs of others by researching different cultural traditions with your children. For links to other ethnic holiday traditions, see www.familytreemagazine.com/ancestornews/holitraditions.html.

7. Talk to the Animals.

Do something nice for our furred and feathered friends on a cold winter's night: Hang a tree with popcorn and cranberry chains, slices of apple, and pinecones spread with enough peanut butter to make birdseed stick. Tuck some peanut butter sandwiches underneath for the squirrels and field mice, and put out fresh greens for the bunnies. There's an old tradition that on the night before Christmas, from midnight to dawn, the animals are given the gift of speech. Maybe late on Christmas Eve, if you're very quiet, you'll hear a small chorus of thank-yous coming from the woods.

8. What's Cookin'?

Start a family cookbook. Have relatives send recipes that have been passed down for generations, mixed with a few of their new favorites. Ask everyone to include a helpful tip or fun fact for each recipe, such as who created it or where the recipe came from. Divide into categories like appetizers, main courses, and desserts, and make copies for everyone. Compile into a three-ring binder, or simply bind with ribbon. Don't forget to add new ones each year.

9. All in the Family.

Consider working on your genealogy as a project for the season. It's the perfect time: As you write out Christmas cards to your cousins in Peoria, you can request names and dates from their side of the family and include them on the family tree. Do an update each season.

10. Make a Movie.

Every year, get out the video camera and interview the children, one at a time, in front of the Christmas tree or menorah. Ask questions about things they've experienced during the past year -- vacations, what they did last summer, school, their hobbies, best friend, and of course, their favorite gift and why. It's a wonderful year-by-year chart of their development, and each holiday you can enjoy watching previous years' tapes.

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Copyright © 2003. Reprinted with permission from the December 2003 issue of Parents magazine.

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