– Every night at bedtime, we ask our kids to tell us about the favorite part of their day.
– Apple picking at the same orchard and buying pumpkins from the same farm every year.
– Making baklava. This Middle Eastern recipe was handed down from my father’s family. I love making this dessert around Christmas time because it represents my multicultural upbringing, reminds me of when I made it with my parents as a kid, and is one way I can share my culture with others.
– We celebrate, discuss and honor many religions and cultural celebrations in our home. We decorate a Christmas tree, light Hanukkah candles, attend a Seder annually at a friend’s home, and when my father fasted for Ramadan, we made a paper chain to symbolize how many days were left in his fast. Our kids are growing up knowing that people have different beliefs, religions, and traditions.
– Advent word calendar and storybook: We count down the days to Christmas with a word calendar instead of with candy. I hang little envelopes filled with a single word numbered for every day in December. My boys take turns opening an envelope each day. My original idea was for each boy to use the word during dinner for fun. The boys decided a few years ago to make a book with the words and drawings. Each day of the month, the boys take turns writing and illustrating a page of the story. By Christmas, we have a new book that has been co-written by the family. It is fun to reread the stories from past years and see how much language, storytelling, drawing style and interest have changed–or not–over time.
– Family dinners and conversations: We try to eat together as a family as much as possible. Everyone has a turn to talk about their day, ask questions and share ideas. When extended family comes over, my boys ask a question for everyone around the table to answer. We call it “pass around the table” and it’s become a tradition at family gatherings. Questions have included: “If you were president, what would you do first?” “If you made a movie, what would it be about and who would star in it?” “If you could have your own museum, what kind would it be and what would be the first exhibition?” “What is your favorite book and why?” “If you could invite anybody to dinner from past or present, who would it be?” Besides being revealing and fun, this is a great way to get younger kids talking to relatives of all ages.
– We believe making things is important, and our kids have grown up making some of the gifts and most of the cards we give to family and friends for special occasions. It can be a simple drawing or an elaborate project planned in advance. We also enjoy shopping local craft shows and buying directly from the artists. This teaches our boys the value and uniqueness of items that have been made by hand and helps temper the commercialism and mixed messages around the meaning of many holidays.