As Easter quickly approaches this year (Too quickly! Where did the first three months of the year go?) I find myself settling into my favorite pre-holiday routine: scouring Pinterest and cookbooks to create my menu for the day. This is one of my favorite parts of any holiday: planning the food to go with it.
I’m no great chef. I have to follow a recipe and have been known to turn chicken breasts into hockey pucks on occasion. But I love good food, and I love preparing a big meal, even if it’s just for my cozy family of four. We eat all the regular meals every night, but a holiday gives me the opportunity to try something new!
So as I planned out our Easter feast (ham, of course, bacon/horseradish deviled eggs, stuffing-stuffed apples, fresh green beans, and a pie of some sort, maybe banana cream! Oooh, yes, banana cream pie!), I found myself pondering family traditions, or the lack of, in our case. We really don’t have any family traditions. There are things we like to do at certain times of year, but we don’t do them every year, and it’s no great loss if we skip them, like cutting down our own Christmas tree. It’s fun and makes for great memories, but sometimes we just buy a $40 Douglas fir from the corner lot and call it good.
I have a love/hate relationship with traditions. I love the idea of them, but they seem like so much work. The Thanksgiving hot dogs and movie (with the pilgrim hat, to boot!) in “This is Us”? It made for great tearjerker TV, but can you imagine having to do that every year? How boring! How tedious! And it’s so much pressure to have to create the same experience year after year, lest you ruin anyone’s holiday. I don’t want to be tied to a place or a thing or a tradition year after year. But I also love the sense of home and family that traditions create. So what to do?
Well, maybe holiday food will be my family’s tradition. It already seems to be happening. A week or so before the holiday, my daughters and I will start bookmarking recipes. I’ll check the weather forecast obsessively to find out if we’re barbecuing or baking. And we’ll pick out new dishes every time, with maybe one or two favorites making a repeat cameo over the years.
When the big day arrives, I’ll spend my morning in the kitchen, prepping the ingredients and assigning duties to my little helpers. My husband will fire up the grill, or just relax in the living room, knowing he’s off the hook for the day. The kids will set the table, choosing which table cloth or place mats they want to use, and placing the dishes at each setting, arranging the glasses, napkins, and flatware with care. They’ll decide if they want candles on the table, and if so, pick out the candlesticks they like.
And even as I write that, I can see my sisters and me doing the same thing so many years ago in my parents’ dining room. My mom, busy in the kitchen, let us girls set the table any way we liked. We took such pride in setting a beautiful table for our holiday meals, just as my daughters do today.
And just like that, a tradition is born! It might not be as solemn or ceremonial as some, and not as funny as others. But it’s what our family does, and it’s what makes holiday special to me.