Marriage enrichment: Make significant days a family affair

Holidays, feast days are ways parents can establish traditions that can be handed down to children

Recently, a dear friend of mine gave me a gift of Irish-themed kitchen items. She gave them to me because she knows that I love St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day has been an important day all my life and I have many wonderful memories of celebrating the holiday with my family and friends while growing up.

My love of St. Patrick’s Day did pose a small problem for me, however, when I married a full-blooded Italian. He wasn’t thrilled with the possibility of his house being covered in green the entire month of March. As with most things in a marriage, a compromise was in order. Luckily for us, St. Joseph’s Feast Day follows two days after St. Patrick’s Day, and St. Joseph’s Day has a strong Italian connection. We decided to decorate and celebrate both feast days. I know that our children have strong memories of this family tradition.

We all bring “family of origin” traditions to our marriages, and some of these can create an emotional mine field for newlyweds trying to create a family of their own. Parents and siblings can add pressure to the couple by insisting that family traditions continue unchanged from generation to generation. It is important for a couple to discuss family of origin traditions with each other and decide together which ones will be part of their new life as a married couple.

The wonderful thing about traditions is the sense of stability and positive routine that they can bring to a family. Early in a marriage a couple can make a list of the traditions that both of their families of origin maintain. Then they can discuss which of those traditions is most important to them and decide which of these can be combined into their new married life.

As the years go by and children come into the family (or when they leave), a couple or the family as a whole can take time to think about the traditions they have adopted or created over the years to decide if it’s time for some changes to be made.

Now that my husband and I have been married for nearly 33 years, it has been interesting to look back on our marriage to see what unique traditions we have developed and which traditions we hope our children will continue in their own families. We know they are very proud of their Irish/Italian heritage and loved the celebrations surrounding the saints’ feast days. I hope they also remember the underlying reasons why we celebrated the lives of St. Patrick and St. Joseph, men of great faith who by their examples have inspired millions to a deeper commitment to Christ and the Church.

A good book that covers the subject of family rituals and traditions is To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration by Gertrud Mueller Nelson. Nelson writes from a Catholic perspective, but the book works well for any Christian faith.

The book discusses the history of holidays and then offers practical ideas to help families respond to the liturgical calendar. This would be a great book to give to newlyweds or to new parents as they begin to create their family rituals and traditions.

From our house to yours, Happy St. Patrick’s Day and a Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.


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