Gay Dads, Children and Holiday Traditions
We tend to revisit the way we deal with traditions once we have children, for good reasons.
I remember our happy DINK (as in "double income, no kids") days, when we’d use Easter vacations to make short city trips: perfect long weekends. We discovered Rome, Vienna, Athens, Istanbul, Rome and flew as far as Seoul, just for a four-day trip. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. With Sascha, no such thing; it’s just not worth the hassle.
Instead, we looked at how we celebrated Easter as children. What brought us joy as kids we try to incorporate into our lives as a family. Being a multicultural family, we try to combine the traditions of Alex’ Swedish upbringing and my Swiss and American heritage. And so this past Easter, we combined the “best of” to create a unique Hirschi family tradition, and we took pictures so that we have memories to cherish, but also to remind Sascha how our family celebrates those holidays in years to come. For the first time in a decade, we celebrated as a family, in Switzerland, combining travel with eggs, chocolate bunnies and sweets.
When we were in Florida last Christmas, Sascha had just learned to crawl the day before, best gift ever for us parents. We filmed him and we can show him that footage in the hopes that he understands that something interesting is coming his way. At 20 months he’s probably still too young to connect the dots, but then again, he’s surprised us before, so all bets are off.
Every December 6, much of Continental Europe celebrates a tradition called St. Nikolas (a vaguely historical figure who became known as St. Nick or Santa Claus in the United States), and I remember fondly how as a child I looked forward to this man's appearance on that day, a visit accompanied by presents and loads of candy. So we decided to treat Sascha to that, and I think he had a great time. And next fall, we can show him the video and prepare him for the next visit.
We try to do this for all our traditions, even though he’s still too young to really grasp and enjoy them, and we do it for several reasons: we get a few practice runs, a chance to think about what works and what doesn’t, and how we really want things to turn out. Hopefully, by the time he’s old enough to look forward to those holidays, we’ll have them pinned down in a way we’re all comfortable with.
One of the many things I love about holidays and holiday traditions is that you get a second chance at them, and I have to say that I find it almost more enjoyable seeing them through my son’s eyes than my own. When I was younger I loved our visits to the local amusement park, the thrill rides, the concerts, the atmosphere. The year before Sascha was born we didn’t go once, the entire year. It had lost it’s appeal. We had barely come back from India last year before we took him for his first visit, and seeing him enjoy the bunny mascots, the kiddie rides and so on gives us a chance to experience the park in a new way. We visited it many times this year, because every time we go, we get to enjoy a new development in our son that wasn’t apparent the last time we were there.
Living in one country and trying to live traditions from other countries isn’t always easy. My dad had to help me get one vital ingredient for our St. Nikolas celebration: soft gingerbread in the shape of St. Nikolas is something that doesn’t exist in Sweden. Halloween is another foreign celebration that has been difficult to properly celebrate in Sweden until this year (I don’t know what happened, but this year things improved dramatically), as people always moved it to the nearest Saturday (which this year was November 1, All Saints Day; religious people were up in arms, as they felt the ghosts and skeletons were a sacrilege); other complications: finding decent pumpkins and having to stash candy at least a week before and after Halloween, as people were confused about the date.
Then there’s also the question of which traditions to uphold, which ones to break and which ones to alter. This is a process for us, just as traditions evolve over years.
Our next tradition to celebrate is Christmas, and as always, we’ll be traveling. This is a family tradition I will never give up, and just like last year, we’ll celebrate “U.S. style,” which means gifts in the morning. Given that we’ll be at high sea on an American cruise ship, it’s not only convenient, but probably the only viable way of doing it. The Christmas tree for our cabin is ordered, and I hope that Sascha comes to wake us up before the throws himself at the presents. Since he can’t read yet, chances are he’ll open everyone’s gifts…And it would be a shame to miss another film opportunity, because I’m sure he’ll have a better understanding of Christmas next year, and visual records from two years to prepare him for it.