Setting holiday traditions & intentions can shape your family
In our household, Easter is a holiday that tends to sneak up. Perhaps because the exact date changes every year, or perhaps because it’s the first spring holiday, arriving well after the busy rush of the winter festivities is done.
Whatever the reason, our Easters of yesteryear were usually low-key celebrations with mimosas and brunch with friends. Once our children were born, we added in a simple egg hunt and called it a day. We didn’t even own an Easter basket; two years ago our son used a red, white, and blue bucket I grabbed out of the haphazard ‘holiday storage’ at the top of our pantry minutes before we were due to hunt eggs at a local park.
It was fine. He was little. He wouldn’t care; he wouldn’t even remember.
This Easter, however, our son, our oldest, is now four. Each celebration now is not only one he’ll recall, but is also a chance to shape who we are as a family. The monumentality of that suddenly struck me as I arrived at our local Target with an entirely different, non-holiday shopping list prepared.
He’ll remember these holidays forever, I thought, staring at rows of neon plastic eggs and brightly packaged chocolates, and yet he’ll only believe in their magic and wonder for a little while longer.
I’m admittedly sentimental about holidays. I prefer to bake and decorate our children’s birthday cakes from scratch, even though their ideas for the cakes have rapidly outpaced my abilities. Come Christmas time, our advent calendar is filled not with candy, but with activities guaranteed to make the holiday fun and fulfilling.
I believe too, in the importance of creating traditions with our kids. Anthropologists have argued that people who have fond memories of strong family traditions go on to have more positive interactions with children of their own.
But Easter, as I said, always sneaks up.
Standing amongst plush bunnies and carrot garlands, I knew it was time to determine what our own family’s Easter traditions would be, starting with putting together my first Easter basket for our son and daughter to share.
But what to fill it with?
For birthdays, we usually give something our child desperately wants (within reason of course). Something they’ve asked for all year with a single-minded focus, no matter our opinion of how impractical a Dinosaur Power Ranger Dino Charger might seem.
For Christmas presents, we try and adhere to the tried-and-true maxim ‘something to wear, something to read, something they want, and something they need.’
For Easter, however, my husband and I had no established tradition other than mimosas, which wouldn’t work for our kids… at least not for another couple decades.
When I was a child, Easter was the holiday my mom really outdid herself celebrating. When I was four, she hid my Easter basket on our front doorstep, then sent my dad around the side of the house to ring the doorbell and lie in wait with a camera, using preciously limited 1986 film to capture my completely shocked reaction that the Easter Bunny would leave something for me.
When my sister and I were older, my mom initiated girls’ days, taking us shopping in the elegant Winter Park neighborhood of Orlando, where we picked out fragrant lotions from sophisticated shops and went out to brunch before it became cool.
But clearly, shopping and brunch would not be the way to my four-year-old son’s heart… at least not this year.
I roamed the aisles at Target, seeking inspiration. Candy was an obvious choice, but one we try to limit. I bypassed the gold-foiled rabbits, fully aware that my year-and-a-half old daughter would smear her chocolate bunny over every surface of our home. No chocolate Cadbury mini-eggs, because we all know they are too delicious, and the person who would eat the most is me. I settled on one package of Reese’s peanut butter eggs, containing only six. Not too many for the kids (or me) to eat, plenty to share between all of us. Perfect.
Once the question of candy had been resolved came the real existential test, however. What else to include?
I didn’t want to take the easy way out and fill it with toys that would be abandoned after their newness wore off, or inexpensive trinkets that wouldn’t get played with at all once they’d fulfilled their destiny of being filler in a holiday basket.
Activities, I settled on. Something that would still delight my children when they received it, but something they could do. I strolled through aisles displaying coloring books, sports equipment, at-home science experiments and crafts, unsure about the precedent I might set by giving any of them.
Easter isn’t a holiday for extravagance. At its core, it’s a celebration of rebirth and resurrection, of Spring, and for me, one of the favorite days each year I spent with my mom and sister.
It came to me then. What I really wanted to give my children with this Easter basket was the joy and treasured memories of spending time together as a family.
For our family, I chose games. Something we could build a tradition around with Easter brunch, something that we could do together over and over, and something that we’ll look forward to adding to each year.
This year’s Easter basket holds a six-pack of card decks that included beloved childhood favorites like Go Fish and Crazy Eights. Something my son will love learning to play, something without small pieces his sister might eat.
We’ll combine it with a donation to our local food pantry, paying forward our good fortune to help other families.
As our children grow older, we’ll weave in ways to give back to the community and volunteering, and listen to their ideas on how we should celebrate together.
And then maybe when they grow up, if I’m lucky, they’ll love going out to brunch.
Kate Lewis is an American writer exploring parenting, travel, and life. Find her on Twitter @katehasthoughts and follow her family’s adventures at www.thesoutherner.me.