November marks the beginning of Winter, with the clocks going back . It is a lovely month, but often gets lost as the shops are brimming with Christmas. November is full of traditions that families embrace, Halloween, Bonfire Night, walking in the woods swishing leaves, drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows afterwards, Remembrance Sunday and for those across the pond, Thanksgiving.
There are some unusual localised traditions in the UK too, for example “Soul caking” in the North of England, on the 1st and 2nd November Soul Cakes would be taken door to door by children, who would exchange them with householders for gifts of sweets, pennies, and this would be good luck for both parties. Soul-caking has survived throughout the west midlands, from Coventry to Manchester to Sheffield.
Then in Devon in Ottery St Mary there is the annual Tar Barrel race, which is said to originate from the 17th century to stop Catholics taking over the Anglican churches. The event involves people racing through the streets of the town, carrying flaming wooden barrels of burning tar on their backs.
Halloween is such a marmite thing….you either love it or loathe it. It’s so much more than trick or treating. It’s about crafting with your children, carving the pumpkin and making masks, making themed cupcakes and getting together with others who want to have some fun. And that’s the thing, Traditions are supposed to be fun! Fun gives us great boosts of seratonin, which can take a dent in the winter months.
Why are traditions important?
Traditions are rituals families engage in again and again. When we intentionally maintain and create traditions they bring meaning to our celebrations and help bond us to those we love. In the celebrating of traditions, we spend time together, uninterrupted, dedicated time. Traditions give us moments to look forward to, which is so important for our sense of wellbeing. They nurture family connection, which gives children a sense of belonging by creating positive memories. It’s those positive memories that anchor families together.
The growth of feeling of belonging and connection builds children’s self -esteem and sense of self in relationship with you.
A trial or a treasure?
Why is it then, that we can often feel that traditions add extra pressure to our already overloaded schedules?Traditions can also lead to sensory overload, meaning that children’s behaviour can be affected. Autumn and winter traditions, involve all our senses , watching the vibrant changing colour of leaves, watching iridescent fireworks and hearing the whizzing and bangs , tasting warming soups, smelling bonfires and hearing the fire crackle , and hearing the mournful sound of the last post. Sensory overload for some children can be a trial for some families. Extra care therefore needs to be taken whatever is appropriate for your family, but also managing expectations becomes key. Do whatever is appropriate for your situation, your budget and your comfort zone. There’s the saying, “If it disturbs your peace, it’s too expensive”, your children will appreciate whatever you provide, as long as you provide it joyfully. Do what can easily be fitted into your time, schedule and budget without feeling any guilt or “not good enough” scripts.
Halloween in our house consisted of apple bobbing, pumpkin carving and making cupcakes. The dressing up box would be raided (some interesting combinations were created) and we’d have a Halloween tea. Bonfire night was a few rockets and sparklers in the garden with mugs of Heinz tomato soup and hotdogs. It was all really low key, but years later the children treasure those rituals with fondness. I really believe that if it’s not fun, it’s not worth the effort. Let it be a treasure not a trial.