Passing On Traditions

I held my annual Halloween dinner last Saturday. Guests came dressed as witches, superheroes, burglars, and minions. The menu included Pile O’ Roadkill, Toasted Bones, Goblins Eyes, Roasted Brains, and Spider Eggs. Dessert was Shallow Graves and Eyeballs.
                I’ve been hosting this event for over twenty years. It was originally just a family dinner, and I thought once my children were all grown, it would end. It hasn’t. Instead it has grown. It is a fun, silly tradition that we kind of stumbled into. I remember exactly how it began.

                The first time I had a “Halloween Dinner” I didn’t really plan it as such. I simply decided to make an elaborate Halloween dessert that year, one I had seen in a magazine. When the dessert was completed, it looked so great that I thought, “If I’m going to do this, I might as well do it up right.” At that point, dinner was already prepared, so instead of planning a special Halloween menu, I came up with names for what I’d already made. Spaghetti became worms, green beans became slugs, and lemonade became sewer water. Then I went into my bathroom, covered my face in green make-up, and ratted my hair until it was standing out all around my head.
                When my kids came in for dinner and saw me, they all got that confused look on their faces which says, “Oh no, I think mom’s really lost it now.” After they sat down, I announced what we were having for dinner in the creepiest voice I could muster. At that point the confused looks turned into grins, and by the time I served the graveyard dessert, they were all playing along. It was a fun dinner, but one I really didn’t plan on repeating.
                Then about six months later I noticed Madi, who was three or four at the time, with a contemplative look on her face. When I asked her what she was thinking about, she replied, “Remember how you always dress up on Halloween and give the food funny names?”
                Always? I’d done it once. But if my little girl thought I always did it, well what could I do? A tradition was born.
                Some years have been more elaborate than others, and it has taken a lot of work and creativity to keep coming up with fresh ideas year after year. Thank goodness for Pinterest. As I said, I really didn’t expect this tradition to keep going this long. The first year all of my children were out of the house I wasn’t planning on having it. But then I got a call from one of my kids asking, “Mom, when are you planning on having your Halloween dinner? I want to get it on my calendar.”
                So the tradition continues, and now it includes my grandchildren. I couldn’t help but smile this year as I overheard two of them looking over the printed menu cards sitting on their dinner plates. They are both beginning readers and had sounded out some of the menu items. With grins on their faces they were discussing whether they were going to have “Witches’ Blood” or “Poison Apple Cider” to drink.

                While it is fun to see this tradition continuing on with my grandchildren, there are other family traditions we had as my children were growing up that I am happier to see continuing into the next generation. Traditions such as attending church together and working together as a family. My Halloween dinner creates happy memories for my grandchildren, but these other traditions give them tools to create happy lives.
                A year and a half ago we went on a trip with our son and his wife’s brother’s family. The two young families stayed in a house together while my husband and I stayed in a hotel down the road. On our first morning there, my husband and I went to the house to get the fun started. When we walked in, both families were gathered in the living room, kneeling on the floor with their arms folded, about to have family prayer. I have many fond memories of that trip, but my favorite is of a blonde haired, blue eyed four-year-old acting as voice that morning as we shared family prayer.                
              I enjoy my annual Halloween dinner. But if I had to choose between passing it on as a tradition for my grandchildren or passing on family prayer, family prayer would win out. I don’t even have to think about it. As much fun as I have giggling with my grandchildren over eating eyeballs, if I had to choose, I would choose to pray with them. That is the tradition I most fervently hope to pass on. That is the tradition that matters most.


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