From the Mommy Files…

Passing Down Traditions: Like Child’s Play

Posted on: April 21, 2011

I’ve written before about my love for our Greek heritage and how I am passing down the traditions to my daughters.

We should be proud of where we come from.

If we don’t pass the traditions down to the next generation, they will be lost.

So celebrate your roots!

Holidays are a great time to get the kids together and begin teaching them about traditions.

Get them involved.

Make it fun.

This special time spent with our children – time together preparing foods, the home and ourselves, for that matter – should be at the top of our lists this season.

With a little extra time (and patience) we can teach our children these customs so they may continue them with their own families.

Kids learn by example; if we live it, they will live it.

These memories will last a lifetime.

The children will then share them with their own children.

These holiday preparations and celebrations are among my most cherished childhood memories.

Below, you’ll read about how I’m sharing our Greek culture and Orthodox Faith with my girls.

Perhaps some of the ideas for how to get them involved will help you think about how to share your traditions.

Start Them Young

Many parents involve their children from an early age. It’s important to start them young, as these traditions will be ingrained in them. They will come to expect them with great anticipation year after year.

Baking and Cooking

Boo, now 4, has been baking since she was 2. She looks forward to it. In fact, she can roll koulouria (Greek Easter cookies) with the best of them! She asked me at the start of Lent when we’d make these cookies, as well other sweets and tsourekia. She knows the time is approaching, and knows this is a fun way to prepare for Easter.  Last year, my then-one-year-old sat nearby in her high chair with some measuring spoons and cups, and was somewhat involved. She heard the stories we shared as we made our treats. This year, Bebs, 2, will get hands-on time. This provides the opportunity to explain about breaking the fast, the Easter celebration, and tales of my Easter celebrations as a child.

The girls also help with the cooking. They learn how to cook traditional dishes and it gives me a helping hand, too.

Eggs

On Holy Thursday, we color Easter eggs. This ritual allows us to discuss the symbolism of the red eggs: they are colored red to symbolize the blood that Jesus shed for us. Also, when we crack the eggs – a fun game for all – it’s symbolic of Christ emerging from the tomb. Additionally, the winner gets good luck for the year. Boo can’t wait to color the eggs. Her “job” is to shine them with oil after they’ve been boiled and cooled. 

Kyra Sarakosti

This is a fairly new tradition in our home; I didn’t learn this growing up. It’s a fun way for kids to track the weeks of Lent. Kyra Sarakosti – in paper doll form – is a nun. Her hands are together since she’s always praying. She has a tiny mouth, as she is fasting. Also, she has seven legs – one for each week of Holy Week. Each week, the children fold back a leg and count how many weeks until Easter. 

Preparing the House

As we prepare for a house-full of guests (or even not), we clean our homes – some call it spring cleaning – to usher in a new spirit, the renewal of life provided by spring. Put your little helpers to work! Make a game of it – who can finish first? Who’s room will be the neatest? Whoever does extra chores gets a prize. They can go through their toys and allocate ones to give to the poor. We do this a couple of times a year. This teaches them not only sharing, but also to give to those in need. Every time we do this, my four year-old says, “Every kid needs a toy.”

Preparing Ourselves

One of the most important things to share with our children is our Faith. During Lent, we should strive to take them to as many services as possible, especially the ones that are only celebrated at this time of the year.

Greek school and church retreats provide a fabulous opportunity for kids to learn with their peer, which not only is fun, but reinforces the messages; “my friends are doing it too. Girls can be mirofora (myrrhbearers); older boys can help carry the Epitaphio; younger boys can be altar boys. Engaging them in these first-hand experiences helps bring the Faith the life and provides greater meaning.

Read Easter stories during reading time. There are many books out there suitable for different age levels. Crucifixion may be too heavy a subject for a younger child, but they can understand that “bad people put Jesus on the Cross,” and that “He stayed there for us, because He loved us.”

Anastasi (Resurrection) is one of the most beautiful services in our Church. Bring them. Show them to hold their lambada (decorated Easter candle) with great joy, and sing the triumphant hymn, “Christos Anesti.”

The Celebration

The preparations are important, but so much takes place on Easter Day. From setting the tables, to passing out the eggs, to selecting the Greek music and dancing, there’s so much for kids to take part in and enjoy. These celebrations of faith, family and love are at the core of who we are. These festive occasions are for all of us, young and old.


Don’t Overstress

Keep explanations to an age-appropriate level. Don’t overwhelm the kids, or yourself. There are so many things to do in preparation for the holiday, and so many facets. Each family has their own traditions and rituals to impart. Start with simple explanations and build on their knowledge each year. These are but suggestions for getting started. Make it an enjoyable, yet informative time for all.

Happy Easter! Καλό Πάσχα!


This post was adapted from my article of the same name, in the special expanded Easter issue of The Greek Star.

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