Give a Hoot About Traditions

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Each year in early December, my wife and I drag out the same half dozen crates of Christmas decorations. It is a ritual that launches our holiday season, and though it clutters up the living room for a few days, it is something we look forward to.

On their New Perches!

Our favorite part is a celebration of our memories sparked by each ornament we hang on the tree. We only use ornaments that have meaning to our family–mementos from events, vacations, delightful surprises, and sad losses. Memories are treasures that we might think of fleetingly at other times during the year, but when the holiday season begins, we anticipate our memory-sparking ornament ritual.

This year my sweet wife found and bought two little great horned owl ornaments at a local florist shop. Two great horned owls often visit our backyard in the late evening. They sit in the mature trees overlooking a little fish pond in our back yard and (we presume) await little furry visitors for their dinners. That full appreciation of their less-than-cheerful motivations doesn’t diminish our affection for these marvelous creatures. It takes a night-vision device to see them well of course, but their presence is clearly marked by their haunting hoots.

Ooo ooo O-OOOOO ooo ooo. It’s always that repeated sequence of hoots and the slight differences in their voices that offer a clear indication that both of our welcome visitors have returned.

I bring this up because of the essential contribution these beautiful birds make to our holidays. They engender lengthy conversation about their past visits and the infrequent sightings that we have made over the years.

The same is true for every one of our other ornaments. We stop and look at the ornament in our hands and then share a lovely “remember when” conversation about joys and laughter of the past. Sweet!

Holiday seasons, especially those with annual revisited icons and ornamentations are goldmines for building and maintaining family culture, and celebrating the rich feelings in our hearts as we warmly embrace each other and memories of people, places, rituals and events.

For children, these kinds of objects are critical for creating and solidifying enduring, funny, and touching family stories. They are opportunities for kids to engage in rich conversations and ask questions that build language strength and joyfully fill memory banks that will guide them through their unfolding lives.

That legacy of story richness and language provides children with emotional and intellectual electricity that can amplify and solidify their experiences in education and in life.

Families that make a point of stopping and talking about the things, people and events that, in honoring their personal histories and venerating their traditions, provide children with abundant resources upon which to build intellectual and conceptual depth, throughout the years.

Rich language in stories told by family or in favorite children’s books are the foundation of literacy.

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