As Anton Ego put it in the movie Ratatouille, "... you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"
Throughout the years I have come to have a deep respect for the role family rituals and traditions have on the healthy state of our family.
For many years I worked as a Family Consultant with Once Upon A Family and picked up a few ideas. Although traditions in our home have had seasons of success and seasons of rest or have had to be modified and/or changed to fit our family's needs, they still exist!
Each issue of 4 Traditions features ideas I have gathered and/or created that you can use or modify to fit your family's needs.
Just Like a Pumpkin...
Being a Christian is like the journey of a Fall pumpkin: God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off you may have gotten from the other pumpkins. Then he cuts the top off and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see. This tradition is a fun way to make this concept come to life. Once a year around Halloween or in the Fall gather your family or any group of people. Each member can have their own pumpkin or they can group up to work as a team. Each pumpkin should be placed on a gunk-proof placemat with a carving knife and scooping spoons close by. Have tea light or battery-operated candles in a bag next to you.
With your own pumpkin lead the group in these 7 steps:
1. Have everyone examine and touch their pumpkins as you talk about how a pumpkin is like us. It has an outside and an inside. The outside is what people see. The inside is like our soul or our heart. A pumpkin left to itself will soon rot and die. We will die some day too. Say, "You aren't a pumpkin, but all of us are something like one. God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off you may have gotten from the other pumpkins."
2. Lead the group in carving out eyes and a small "o" shaped mouth. As you make the holes and pull out the pieces of rind, ask them what they see inside (yucky stuff). Say, "This is what we look like to others and what we are like when our hearts are not changed. The hearts of men are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live (Ecclesiastes 9:3). How can we get rid of this icky stuff?"
3.Lead the group in carving an opening in the top of the pumpkin big enough to put your hand through. Say, "God is the only one who can change our heart. But in order for God to change our heart we must become open to him." You might want to quote Revelation 3:20: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
4.Have your group put their hands in their pumpkins and pull out the insides. Say, "God scoops out all the yucky stuff inside of us. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, impurity, and greed." Talk about the cross and how Jesus was willing to become messy for us, so that we might be clean. God says this: I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25b-27).
5. After the pumpkins are clean say, "If we leave a pumpkin with just the insides taken out, then it's just hollow. We need to have a light inside that will truly make us alive! Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" Pass out little candles. Have the group add a light to the inside of their pumpkins. Say, "When Jesus lives inside of you, you glow!"
6.At this point lead the group in carving the mouths into smiles! Say, "God carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see."
7. Let each person share where they are going to put their pumpkin so that it can be seen. Say, "God has a wonderful plan for you, He has given you gifts and talents. He is growing your character too. When you follow His lead He will purposefully place you in the perfect spot so that all can see His light shinning in and through you. You can trust that He knows where you need to be in order for your light to be seen.
This tradition puts a new spin on a favorite childhood game...Musical Chairs. It's perfect for a Fall party. Invite each person to bring a costume in a brown bag that can be put on over regular street clothes. Everyone takes a seat and places their own bag under a chair. Turn on some music and play a game of musical chairs (with a chair for each person). When the music stops, each guest must take the brown bag from underneath their chair and wear whatever costume is inside for the rest of the evening. Your guests will bring outrageous costumes because they know they won't have to wear them. Be prepared for an evening full of laughter. Year after year, this tradition becomes more hilarious as your guests bring wilder costumes.
Costume Memory Game...
Go through your old Halloween photos and choose any that show family members or friends dressed up. Make 2 copies of every photo you want to use. Cut them into identical rectangles (maybe 2" by 2") and create a memory game your family will never get tired of. You can add new photos each year. If you don't remember how to play the game, it's pretty simple. Place all cards on the table, face down in even rows. Take turns turning two over at a time as you try to find pairs. If someone turns over a pair on their turn they get to keep the cards. Whoever has the most pairs when the cards have all been picked up, is the winner. This will soon become a family favorite.
Halloween Candy Tithe...
This is a tradition that reminds everyone that all we have is a gift and the value of giving back. Gather your family asking them to bring their bags of collected Halloween candy. Talk about how God made everything and all that we have has been given by Him. Since God has given us so much, we want to give back. By giving back to God, we show Him that we love Him and are thankful for what He has given us. Discuss how God asks us to give Him the first 10% of what we are given. Have each candy collector count their Halloween candy and put the first piece of every ten aside. Come up with ways that your family can give the candy "back to God". It may be to give the candy to someone who was unable to trick-or-treat due to sickness. Your family could call a local shelter and see if your family can take the candy to children there. Another idea is to send the candy to military troops who are stationed away from home. Pray about where God would like your family to tithe this year. Before bagging up the Candy Tithe read a few verses from the Bible about giving: Acts 20:35 and 2 Corinthians 9:7 are good ones. Each year the value of giving back will become an important part of candy collecting.