My family always had traditions when I was growing up. Every Christmas eve was spent at my great grandparents' house. The entire family - great grandparents, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins - would gather at my great grandpa's and grandma's and we'd open gifts and laugh and spend the evening together as a big family. Once my great grandparents passed away that tradition passed on to my grandma and grandpa, and we'd all congregate there.
Christmas morning was spent at our house where we got up and "had to eat breakfast first" before opening presents. Then we'd get ready, trying to somehow incorporate everything we'd received as gifts into our outfit somehow so we could take it to my other grandparents' house (my mom's mom and dad), which is where we went next. Again, the entire family, aunts and uncles and cousins too, would gather there and spend the day together, opening gifts and eating and laughing.
Easter was always spent at my house where my mom would fix this huge Easter feast, and both sides of my family (mom's and dad's) would come. We'd spend the day eating and playing and finding Easter eggs. After hunting eggs my sister and my cousins and I would always sit on the picnic table and count our eggs and eat some of them. One year I remember we tried cracking them open by slamming them into our foreheads. Pain!
New Year's night was spent at my grandparents' house. We'd all bring something to trade. One year I traded something, I forget what exactly but I think it was a pocket knife, for a bottle of hairspray from my aunt, which I discovered wouldn't spray. I was so disappointed! I'd try to stay up every year until midnight, though I'm not sure if I ever succeeded. I must have because I remember one year being awake to hear my uncles shoot off guns, which is what we did to bring in the new year.
Traditions don't have to be something big to be remembered and enjoyed. I remember watching the Miss America pageant every year with my grandpa when I was a kid. I remember sitting outside in the dark on the picnic table with my cousins and Grandpa while he told us scary stories before bed. Usually it involved a witch who ate off kids' toes. Grandpa even had this spooky witch laugh he did. I still can't sleep at night with my toes uncovered, and if I wake up in the middle of the night to discover my feet out from under the blanket I promptly pull them back in to safety.
Every year my grandma always called my sister and me when she heard the first whippoorwill call. I think that meant summer was here, and we could go barefoot now. I love to go barefoot, now as much as then, which is why I always had bee stings all over my feet then and dirt all over my feet now.
Birthdays were special times because the day was all about us. Grandparents and aunts and uncles would call on the phone all day long to sing "Happy Birthday". I still miss my grandma and grandpa calling every year on my birthday now that they've both passed away and now that my other grandma can no longer remember that it's my birthday. Mom always fixed us whatever kind of cake we wanted for our birthdays. She made these big fancily-decorated cakes for us when we were kids (I have photos), but as we got older my sister always requested cherry cheesecake and I wanted angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream, year after year.
These are just some of the many traditions we had in my family. Now that I'm an adult and I have a family of my own I've tried to continue many of these traditions while adding in a few of my own. We still spend Christmas eve with my dad's family, and we still have to eat breakfast every year at mom's and dad's house before we can open presents (the torment!). Christmas day is always spent at my mom's parents' house. Many things haven't changed, and I'm glad.
Birthdays here at my house are always big deals. I decorate the dining room and often the living room with streamers and balloons everywhere. I have a big "Happy Birthday" sign that I put up. The kids fully expect all of these things and would be disappointed if they awoke on their birthdays to find that I hadn't done them. The first thing they do when they wake up on their birthday is to run into the dining room and living room to see my decorations and all the presents piled up in the exact spot that they've been in every year on a birthday.
Everyone, hubby included, gets to pick out a cake they want and I make it for them, which is why I've made everything from a Care Bear cake and Pokemon to Batman and Transformers, and nearly everything in between. Every year hubby requests a pineapple upside-down cake. Everyone always gets to pick out a birthday meal too. Sometimes it's as simple as some chicken nuggets and french fries, while others it's a feast of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and biscuits. Whatever it is, I lovingly prepare it, because not only is it my way of showing them I love them but it's my way of making sure they have traditions they can carry on themselves one day.
I tell you all of this because my day today will be spent blowing up balloons and making pumpkin pie. Yes, pumpkin pie. It's what Haley has requested this year. Breakfast will be the usual "birthday breakfast" which is green eggs and ham. Lunch will be her favorite, oyster stew, and supper will be another favorite, catfish, rice and asparagus. You see, tomorrow (May 9th) is her sixth birthday and so the traditions continue. Happy birthday, baby.