When our kids were very small, we began various traditions around the holidays. We didn't think much about them for the first few years, as they were still forming, and Ava was too small to even be aware of what we were doing. When we moved to Alberta from BC four years ago, we began a few new traditions, and now that those are cemented in our family life, we are beginning to see the fruits of what annual traditions give to us.
Our kids look forward to these things all year long. We talk about them for weeks before we do them, and that seems to make the events themselves even more special. It's fun to watch their faces light up, and Jason and I have more fun because of the anticipation we have been building as a family. I know I have a reputation for over-scheduling everything I do, but there is a time for spontaneity and also for planning, and when an event has been on the calendar for awhile the excitement can really build.
I've talked to some people who prefer not to build up their kids' hopes in case the event falls flat, but I haven't found that to be the case. Anything can go sideways at any time, but the value I find in annual traditions is that you always know roughly what to expect from what you are doing, and slight variations actually make for more specific memories.
For the four years we have lived here, we have gone out to a specific restaurant for dinner and then to the Festival of Lights, an outdoor light show with a train, hot chocolate, kid's crafts, music, fires in barrels and other winter delights. We have always gone around my birthday, and hoped to pick an evening that wasn't frigidly cold (generally we have bad luck here and it's bitterly cold, but that's now part of the tradition).
This was the first year that both kids really got into the experience, talking excitedly about how this light show compared to other years, and asking all day what time we were going to the restaurant. I love how anchored these traditions are going to be in my kids' memories, because we have been doing them for as long as they have been alive, and plan to continue doing them. These things become cumulative over childhood, and they are memories that Jason and I will also treasure when the kids are grown and have moved away from home.
Building our family memories is no small job. These early years are the ones upon which we build our foundation for what is to come, and it's fun to put another building block in place when we have a day like we did yesterday. Giving to each other and valuing our family above our own needs or desires is a useful exercise. It feeds something in each one of us, and draws us closer together.