Folklife is what we learn, not from books, but from the people we identify with, our clan. Traditions are the threads that make up the tapestry of our own belonging. It is generally through these customs, traditions, stories, jokes and foodways (to name a few) we express our history, values and identity. Without them, we feel lost and disoriented. Vulnerable.
All of my children are now adults. Each building extended families and ties, some living in different locations, creating homes and traditions all their own, adding members with different folkways to our clan. More often, I notice a different level of anxiety as everyone tries to honor all the traditions vying for the same time and space. Each year, the pull for me to loosen the grip on my set expectation is stronger and stronger.
Thanks to a long-time family friend, known for her innovation, I see these situations less as challenges and more as opportunities to expand on great traditions.
Lynn has three sons, each married and each with small children. It was getting increasingly difficult for them to gather together all at once for the holidays. Either her boys would alternate the years between Lynn’s home and the in-laws or their visits were cut short to make a mad dash to the next family location. To avoid any potential conflict between the extended families and to ensure Lynn still got to have all her children under her roof at the same time, Lynn celebrates Thanksgiving on the Saturday before the official holiday. The event remains a full-fledged affair with all their traditional foods and customs. Her house is full and robust as she gathers with all her boys, their wives and all the grand babies without stress, constraints or guilt for anyone.
As for me, I love this idea and admire the bond and memories that are being honored, strengthened and created for multiple generations within the family. It is an ingenious way to preserve the legacy of your family during changing times. And, with there still being the formal holiday to come, an opportunity to extend entirely new traditions with others!