For me, fall means leaves and leaves mean a very special family tradition. I grew up in upstate NY and as soon as the leaves began to fall we knew that soon it would be time to make our Pumpkin Man. My grandfather would bring over the Pumpkin Man supplies and send us out into the yard to gather the most beautiful fall leaves that we could find. And gather we did. Leaves are abundant in NY and in the fall our front yard was full of gorgeous, multicolored maple leaves.
The air was cool, so we dressed in layers, and the crunchy leaves made everything smell like fall. It wouldn’t take us long, but the days were getting shorter and the onset of evening made everything feel cozy as we worked.
When we were satisfied with our bounty we brought it inside and my grandfather got to work. With the leaves we collected, an old pumpkin face, and faded construction paper cut-outs he created our Pumpkin Man in the large picture window in my parent’s house.
We carry on the tradition of the Pumpkin Man each year in our house too. Although, as we move further and further south those perfect fall leaves get harder to find. Here in FL my children wear sunscreen instead of jackets and the only trees we have in our yard are palms. And still the Pumpkin Man lives on.
My children get the same things out of the Pumpkin Man that my brother and sister and I did. Family traditions are not just about creating a fun experience or giving children something to look forward to each year. Family traditions, like the Pumpkin Man, build shared memories that connect us to each other and with each other. They become bigger than ourselves and our personal experience and get woven into our collective family history like squares into a quilt.
Traditions bring comfort and their rituals tell a lot about what we as a family value and hold dear. What fall traditions do you have in your family? What family traditions would you like to begin this fall? I’d love to hear all about it.