Families form traditions. And traditions form families. Our household has collected got a whole heap of traditions over the years: from two tradition-rich families, from multiple cultures, and from our own set of experiences. But a new generation is coming of age, and we’re learning that we may need to hold some of these traditions lightly. As our family continues growing and expanding, we simply cannot (or at least should not) do everything that we’ve “always” done. And honestly, it’s just more fun to keep ourselves open to new holiday traditions: some of which may only be with us for a few years, and some which may come to be held most dearly by the next generation (or generations).
This holiday season, I’m already noticing a few new things that might represent new trends. And I’m curious to see which of these new holiday traditions might stick with us…
Of all the holidays that our family observes, Thanksgiving is probably the one with the most fluid traditions. For one thing we typically rotate, every other year, between Thanksgiving with the extended Asp Family (my parents and their descendants) and Thanksgiving with the extended Anderson Family (Marci’s parents and their descendants). Secondly, we had a solid decade in our family’s formative years when we lived on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean from our extended families, almost never making it back to the United States for Thanksgiving. So, there really is no one way that we’ve always done things. And now that the next generation is rising in to young adulthood, we’re starting to wonder how future iterations of this holiday will play out.
It also happened that this year’s extended family Thanksgiving celebration was with my side of the family and all of its attendant dietary restrictions. Several of my relatives can’t eat gluten. A couple others don’t do well with dairy. And another has problems with fructose. But in our household, many of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes are high in gluten, dairy, and fructose! So, we struck upon an idea to do a sort of “Thanksgiving Eve Feast” once our older kids came “home” from “college” this week. This allowed us to make all of our favorite foods with sufficient quantities of leftovers to allow for continued enjoyment over the extended weekend. And, as an unintended benefit, it got the vast majority of our food preparation out of the way on Wednesday, so that our Thursday morning was delightfully relaxed.
We haven’t made any sort of commitment to keep doing it this way in years to come, but I kind of hope that it will become a new tradition.
Asp Family Christmas Music Draft
Our family loves Christmas music. But we’re pretty strict about waiting to start playing our favorites until after Thanksgiving. Over the years, we’ve decided that “after Thanksgiving” means “at the conclusion of all the formal Thanksgiving Day festivities.” So: as soon as the last guest leaves our house… or, as soon as we get in the car following a visit to someone else’s place for Thanksgiving Dinner. And this year, for the second year in a row, we decided to organize our listening through a draft. Like what professional sports teams do in acquiring the rights to sign new young talent to their roster, or the way that guys do a Fantasy Football Draft, making a contest out of football statistics. Each person in the draft gets an even number of picks, in successive rounds of selection, until the roster of that year’s recruits is formed.
Both last year and this year, we decided on five rounds of selection. With five of us in the family, this creates a playlist of twenty-five songs, or about an hour and a half of music. We each have our favorite artists and albums, so the playlist reflects personal preferences — but we all enjoy all of the music, really. And just like our Summer Playlists, these Christmas playlists creates a record of our evolving preferences. It’s a delightful mix of music that I find myself going back to, again and again, even when the rest of the family isn’t around. In case you’d like to hear this year’s version for yourself, here’s the 2022 Playlist (bonus points to anyone who can guess who drafted in which order!).
I discovered Euchre during my early adolescence. It had a lot of strange rules and traditions. But the more I practiced, the more I enjoyed the card game. My skill and enjoyment of Euchre probably peaked during my college years, playing late into the night in Conklin Hall at Bowling Green State University. But my affection for Euchre peaked later, after our family had moved to Europe. From that vantage point, I could see how distinctly Midwestern the game was. And when a rare foursome could be scraped together on that side of the Atlantic, it felt extra special. It reminded me of home.
So, when my sister suggested that we play a round of Euchre after the Thanksgiving feasting was done, I was excited to revive my own interest in the game and — hopefully — kindle new interest from the younger generation. We decided to form four teams of two, pairing experienced players with less-experienced players. And we played slowly, explaining the decision-making process as much as possible, choosing to end with the first team scoring five points (instead of the usual ten) to make the whole experience more user-friendly. All in all, the experiment seemed to be a success. But we’ll have to see how hard it is to scrounge up our next game at Christmastime.