I can't stretch enough how important traditions and ritual are. I mean family traditions. It doesn't really matter if we follow the traditions of the country you live in, or the traditions of our extended family. What it matter is how we create our own traditions in our own families. Traditions create the identity of the family and a sense of belonging: to a greater family, a community or to the universe.
As a family with different cultural backgrounds who lived in 6 countries, we have gathered so many beautiful traditions and celebrations. Here are some of them:
Mid- Autumn Festival in October (Chinese tradition)
Sankt Martin in November (German and Austrian tradition)
Advent and Christmas in December (we do a combination of German, Austrian, French and Romanian traditions)
Galette des Rois in January (French tradition)
Spring Festival aka. Chinese New Year in February
Martisor in March (Romanian Tradition)
Easter - in March this year ( a combination of German, Austria, Romanian and French traditions)
Spring Equinox in March
Mai Baum in Mai (German and Austrian tradition: we plant a tree as a symbol of Mother Nature's energy)
Summer Solstice in June
This is our second year repeating the same traditions and I can already see the benefits of this rhythm for our family and my daughter's joy when we prepare the celebrations. She already has some memories from our last year's celebrations.
We have at least 4 celebrations for Spring and this is probably because we so much long for the sun! Or maybe because there are so many different perspectives in different countries about when spring starts.
Spring Festival or Chinese New Year: looking out for the signs of spring and hope
According to the Chinese calendar, Spring starts when the sap is raising in the tree's trunks to prepare the blossoms. It's the beginning of a new year. Yes, the Chinese New Year is the celebration of Spring. So this year, in 2018 Spring officially starts on the 16th of February, according to the Chinese Calendar.
If you would like to celebrate the Spring Festival even if it's not a tradition in your culture, here are some ideas:
make paper lanterns. You will find some easy tutorials here
make flower arrangements. Some of the traditional flowers for the Chinese New Year are: cherry tree branches, pussy willow, forsythia.
prepare easier versions of traditional meals: dumplings (jiao ahi), fish, spring rolls, rice cakes. You can find many recipes online and adapt it to your taste
look out for the signs of spring in the nature. Some questions to guide you: Can you feel the first signs of spring? Can you see them? Can you imagine the sap going up from the earth, through the trunks and brunches of the trees to prepare the blossoms?
Martisor, offer symbols Spring to your beloved ones
In Romania, we traditionally consider the 1st of March as the beginning of Spring. It's an ancestral celebration, one of the most original and representative of the Romanian culture and it has recently been included in the UNESCO heritage. Traditionally women and girls were offered little lucky objects made of metal, ceramic or glass, hung to a white and red ribbon. The white thread symbolizes winter and the red one is a symbol for spring. This gifts are related to a very old legend of a girl (also described as an old woman in some traditions) named Dochia (pronounced Dokia). She is a symbol of the threat of winter that can come back anytime at the beginning of spring and, at the same time, Dochia represents the rebirth of nature.
Things we do and you could easily adopt in your family:
make little pendants, hang them to a ribbon and offer them to friends and family
show to your little ones how to plait two threads together (one white and one red)
wear pins with white and red threads
decorate your home with spring flowers
read books about the change of seasons
Here are some of our favorite books:
"Bringing the outside in" by Mary McKenna Siddals and Patrice Barton
"Tree" (in French: Au creux de mon arbre; In German: Der Baum) by Britta Teckentrup
"Tap the magic Tree" by Christie Matheson
"Sky Tree" by Thomas Locker
Easter, mixing up traditions from four cultures and celebrating the fertility of nature
When I was little I loved Easter because it was so bright and colorful and there was so much happening. We painted real boiled eggs that we later ate during the Easter celebrations. We went on picnics in the forest and there were so many delicious meals to share with friends and family.
In France I have later discovered that parents hide chocolate eggs in gardens and parcs and children go on egg hunting.
In Austria people do Easter fires on Saturday evening, before the Easter Sunday. Both in Romania and Austria you can find beautifully hand-painted eggs (see the pictures bellow). In Germany people make Easter Trees (a bit like Christmas Trees, they are big branches or little trees decorated with painted eggs)
From all these wonderful traditions we made our own mix. Here are some ideas that you could adopt in your family:
decorate the home with forsythia branches or cherry trees branches and hang eggs and feathers
paint organic eggs with natural dyes (beet, turmeric and spinach are some ingredients you could use)
make felted eggs. You can find our tutorial here
go on an Egg Hunt. On the Easter Sunday morning my husband hides the eggs we have painted in the garden and then the whole family goes on an egg hunt. You can also do this in a park or in the forest. We prefer to hide organic hard-boiled eggs instead of chocolate eggs :)
prepare and have an Easter meal. In Romania there are entire cooking books dedicated to food for Easter. We take food seriously for celebrations. But the most important is in my view is to come together as a family and share food prepared with love.
light candles. Candles are important for Easter. They celebrate light, life and hope that nature is fertile again. They also have religious symbols (in Romania people light candles at the church at midnight and share the light). In the Montessori pedagogy young children learn to light candles safely, under the supervision of an adult and I believe that this is an important skill to learn. Maybe you could make Easter an occasion for learning this skill?
read books about the rebirth of nature: about chicken, birds, rabbits, plants,... (the books from "My first discoveries" collection are great- Montessori friendly and they offer a good first view on a topic)
go to a picnic (if the weather allows) and make some beautiful memories for your children (children - and adults!- love eating outside)
Spring Equinox, invite spring in your home + celebrate spring outdoors
In the North Hemisphere Spring officially starts on the Equinox: the 20th of March this year.
On our Spring Table we usually place flowers, some wooden animals, books about Spring and we regularly add natural "treasures" that we find during our nature walks or in the garden.
We live in a country where people say "there is no such thing as bad weather" so kids and adults are outside by any kind of weather. Nevertheless, with the Spring Equinox approaching there are more people in the woods. And our Forest Playgroup meets up again after the January-February break.
Some ideas of things you could do around the Sprig Equinox:
join a Forest Playgroup or create your own. Two great books to inspire you "How to raise a wild child" by Scott D. Sampson and "Play the Forest School Way" by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton. You cal also have a look at this blogpost I wrote about what you need to pack when going outdoors on nature exploration
jump the puddles and play in the mud
go to Botanical Gardens and observe the plants and animals coming to life again
read books about Spring (you can see on Instagram what we are currently reading)
plant seeds or start a mini vegetable garden. It can even be just seeds planted in some jars that you place on a window's edge
watch cherry trees blossoming. People travel to Japan and South Korea to see cherry trees blossoming and after seeing those in Seoul, South Korea while living there I can understand why. But the cherry tree blossoming are beautiful everywhere. If you happen to have one in your garden or in a park, go watch it mindfully. Have a picnic under the blossoms. Watch it at night if you can. Fill your heart and soul with beauty.
In our multicultural family all these traditions that we celebrate in Spring are important. They help us build a rhythm, live with the seasons and stay in contact with cultures that matter to us. They open us to different perspectives and help us stay mindful and aware of the nature around us. They make us reflect on our values and our identity as a family. I hope that you found inspiration in this blogpost and would love to hear about your spring traditions.