An example of the former is my borderline obsession with Christmas crockery. When we lived inBelgium, I splashed out on a lovely dinner service.
We couldn’t afford it. Nor did it make economic sense to buy something which would only come out a handful of times a year (Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and one mid-December gathering of friends).
But I wanted something which would create a sense of occasion at the dining table every year. It certainly does that. As well as eight full place settings, there is a turkey plate the size of an aircraft carrier!
Over the years I have added to the service with a range of eBay bargains. Anything with the Spode Christmas tree I find impossible to resist. My husband jokes that our Christmas crockery now needs to be kept in its own garden shed. At least, I think he is joking.
Notwithstanding the cost and early-onset O.C.D., has it been worth it? Absolutely. The kids know Christmas really is here when the boxes of crockery start appearing on the dining room sideboard. And, because we always sit down together for a Sunday dinner, it differentiates the Christmas meals and makes them more memorable.
There are other examples and, until recently, they were initiated by us – the parents. Now, increasingly, it is our children who are coming up with the in-jokes and rituals. These things are often meaningless to those outside of the family unit. Yet they help those within it parcel-up important milestones within the year.
A good example came this morning. Our third eldest child turned eight-years-old. Her siblings make it an occasion, every bit as much as her mother and father do.
There is a special chair (also fromBelgium) which is like a grown-up armchair, but a third of the size. It is hidden away and kept in mint condition, only to be brought out by the children when one of them is celebrating a birthday. They call it the Birthday Chair.
The name may be unoriginal, but it is a novel creation; a tradition they have started and now cleave to faithfully. In years to come they may hand some of these traditions on to their own children and, I pray, start some of their own.