Every holiday season since Big Papa and I became a duo, we’ve made Shepherd’s Pie from scratch. It’s a tradition we created together. I’ve thought a lot about how new rituals might make their way into our lives, particularly as they relate to adoption, which is why one of this week’s National Adoption Awareness Month’s ideas, Create an Adoption Tradition, resonated.
The anniversary of a child’s adoption is one special day that most adoptive families choose to celebrate. Many families refer to this day as Adoption Day, Family Day, Gotcha Day, Arrival Day or Homecoming Day. It could be the day you legally became a family, the first day you met, or the day you began sharing a home together.
Some families celebrate Family Day by making a dinner with foods that are specific to a child’s country of birth or ethnic background. Other families allow their child to pick a special activity. The celebrations can be small and intimate or can involve extended family and friends.
Picking a time to tell and retell a child’s adoption story, look at a lifebook or mementos that were collected is another tradition that finds its way into adoptive families’ lives. Of course, telling a child’s adoption story is a tradition that should happen all the time, not just on a special day, but it is also nice to set aside time, maybe on a child’s birthday, or on Family Day, to really highlight their own unique story.
A number of adoptive parents I know find a tradition to honor their child’s birth mother. Some may light a candle or write a letter on Mother’s Day or the on the child’s birth and then talk about the role their child’s birth mother played in his life.
Many families who adopt children of different ethnic or racial backgrounds (domestically or internationally) blend holidays and traditions from their child’s culture into holidays and traditions from their own cultural upbringing. Whether it’s Diwali (India), Chinese New Year (China), Cinco de Mayo (Mexico) or Timkat (Ethiopia) incorporating festivals, foods and rituals from a child’s birth culture is one way to build connections and develop a sense of belonging to a larger community.
It’s important to include kids in the creative process of finding new family traditions too. As children grow, they come up with some of their own ideas for how they might want to celebrate their adoption.
Traditions and rituals help organize life and give it predictability. Ritual helps us focus our attention. Celebrations of joy, acknowledgment of loss or grief, family rituals and traditions have the power to connect us and transform us in profound and important ways.