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Family Traditions for Fall

The one thing I missed dearly during our family’s island beginnings was the physical evidence of the changing seasons. I have gushed plenty about autumn this year, but it has long been my favorite season. I have always been terrible about getting up early in the mornings, but when I was teaching, I made a point of it during the first few weeks of school each year, so that I could take my time and walk instead of driving or biking to work. I savored these walks, especially in Colorado where winter comes early. I was never huge on Halloween, but I loved the sights and the smell of the season. Later on, I started a small Spanish program for preschoolers and, after exploring culture with them, became enamored with the Day of the Dead, which gave me yet another reason to appreciate this time of year.

Because there was no such thing as autumn on Guam, this is the first year I have been able to really celebrate since we’ve had children, and I enjoyed it even more than I would have expected. I wanted to list all of our new fall traditions while they’re fresh in my mind, and I’d love to hear what yours are, too. I’m looking forward to adding to these in the years to come!

Autumnal Equinox

I was eager to jump in and celebrate fall the moment I saw leaves beginning to turn yellow, but I refrained and decided instead to use the day of autumnal equinox as the official start of our family’s fall traditions. We ended up taking a walk along a trail near our home where we admired the trees and I collected the prettiest leaves I came across to make leaf crowns. I’m planning to make this a tradition, as it seemed like the perfect way to mark the first day of fall. As the children get older, we’ll explore just exactly what an equinox is, too.

Autumn Baking

Ginger cutout cookies welcome autumn.

During the weekend of the equinox, we did our first seasonal baking. Annabelle and I made some simple cutout cookies using cookie cutters in the shape of leaves, acorns, and pumpkins. As the season continued, we enjoyed incorporating pumpkin and ginger into breads, pancakes, special drinks, and all sorts of other things. In the future, I’d love to add an applesauce making day to our list of food related traditions as well.

Poetry and Music

We often say goodnight with a brief poem where other families may say a prayer, and I chose a new poem about the autumnal equinox for that night and continued to use it for many days thereafter. I cannot find the source of the poem I originally chose, but there are several lovely ones online. We also fell in love with a children’s book called Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature. It is full of poetry with accompanying illustrations, all broken down by season. Each night until Annabelle grew tired of it, we read the poems in the autumn section as one of our bedtime or naptime stories. She’s eager to read the winter poems soon, and so am I! I’d love to add to my repertoire of seasonally appropriate songs, too, but  for this year Annabelle thought “The Five Little Pumpkins,” was pretty cool. Long before having children, I used to make a mix cd to mark the occasion when fall and winter came, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a fall mix from my past to enjoy while we baked. I’m hoping to make a new one before next year.

Art, Crafts, and Decorations

Annabelle in her leaf crown

I love to decorate for the season, but many of my things have disappeared during the many moves we have made in recent years, so Annabelle and I had a lot of fun making some of our decorations this year. We’ve been doing some art project or another most every afternoon following rest time and I have loved it. I give Annabelle some interesting materials and let her do her thing, and I sit with her and work on a creative project of my own. I’m not terribly crafty, so I created very few things that are worth blogging about, but I did love our mini leaf bunting, leaf and gourd centerpiece, and leaf crowns.

My mom sent a package of fall goodies for Annabelle, and I appropriated some of the craft foam leaf stickers she included for a project of my own. I simply peeled away a portion of the backing and stuck the top corner of the stickers to a length of ribbon which, when fully strung, I hung from our mantle. It really turned out to be lovely!

I discovered the idea of painting autumn leaves with mod podge to preserve them via the Artful Parent. We collected many leaves on our walks, so I used this method to preserve some of my favorites and, once dry I arranged them on a rectangular plate along with some decorative gourds from the farmer’s market. The result was a reasonably respectable centerpiece that I have loved looking at.

Autumn leaf crowns were part of the autumnal equinox tradition I mentioned already, but they also qualify as a craft project. I like to keep it simple, so all I did for these was select leaves with sturdy stems. I poked two holes near the top of each leaf with a needle and threaded the stem of another through each leaf until I had a chain. I attached the ends to make a crown and we were in business. I’d love to get pictures of Annabelle and Elliot in their leaf crowns on autumnal equinox every year, until they get too old to consent to such nonsense, anyway!

Of course there was plenty of good, old fashioned leaf rubbing, drawing, pumpkin spice play dough, acorn painting and such, too. There are a huge number of on the fly autumn art projects for every age and interest. Oh, and of course fall graced Annabelle’s toy/work shelves as well.

Exploring Culture

Since everyone around us celebrates Halloween, we jumped in this year and started a tradition of homemade costumes. Before you get too impressed, I should add some qualifiers, like that I don’t sew. We just pulled together some easy to find items to create a costume that Annabelle was excited about. I made a mask and some ears and the rest was just clothes. We went trick or treating for the first time as well. Since Annabelle has never eaten candy nor did we really want to start keeping it around, we agreed that we’d go out at the very beginning of the night and head home to hand out candy afterward. The candy we handed out was the same candy we had just collected, so by bedtime we had broken even and had fun doing it.

A peek at our mantle, complete with mini leaf bunting and skeletons.

Now that Annabelle is old enough to remember our travels and to take an interest in the cultures around us, I’m excited to start learning more about the way families in our community and beyond celebrate in this season and throughout the year. This autumn, I took out all of my children’s books about El Dia de Los Muertos and a few decorations and we used those as tools to talk about this important celebration and the traditions that go with it. We were even able to enjoy a party where those in attendance had brought items to place on an altar, or ofrenda, so Annabelle got to see some of what we had read about, even if it was not in a traditional setting.

I love the emphasis in some traditions of this season as a time of balance between light and darkness. The reminder to use the equinox to look at our lives and find balance within is beautiful. At the same time, I find such beauty in the not unrelated traditions of the Day of the Dead, which seems to flirt with the balance between life and death. Then of course there’s the colors, the crisp air, and the tastes of fall. It’s a magical time of year!

I’m loving the chance to experience autumn again, and to celebrate its arrival with Annabelle. I can’t wait to continue these traditions and create many more now that she’s old enough to participate and enjoy them. How do you celebrate autumn?

11 Responses to Family Traditions for Fall

  • Gina says:

    What a great way to enjoy the sights of autumn! I just love starting traditions with my little one, too!

  • Mud Hut Mama says:

    I loved this post and how much you have embraced the fall! I really miss the changing of seasons and hope to share some fall traditions with my girls one day.

    • melissa says:

      I’d love to read about what a seasonal rhythm looks like in your part of the world! While we didn’t have four seasons on Guam, we did have the wet season … and mango season! I miss those mangoes!

  • Rach says:

    Loving all of these, especially the leaf crown (hippy vibe which I just love ha) and Dia de Los Muertos. We’ve dabbled ineffectually with leaves, but I guess the big thing is bonfire celebrations with parades and fireworks. May crib some ideas though and squeeze them in before winter comes.

    • melissa says:

      The fireworks and bonfires seem like great fun to me, too. I wish that were more of a thing here sometimes. It seems everywhere I have lived in the US has been very anti-bonfire in recent years, what with wildfires and all. I have been considering a post on teaching language with young children, but then I never can get into a rhythm of incorporating it regularly at home, so I’d feel like a phony writing about it. Perhaps I’ll get that going soon!

  • Rach says:

    Oh also would love to hear about how to do Spanish with toddlers,if you ever have a chance.

  • Laura says:

    It sounds like you’ve been doing lots of wonderful projects. That’s cool. I love that you can work on some project of your own while Annabelle works on hers. What about Elliot? Is he there with you awake? Does he sleep most of the time? I am trying to figure out how we’ll handle tot crafts and activities with a newborn around… soon, pretty soon.

    • melissa says:

      It’s getting a bit more challenging now that Elliot is awake for longer stretches. I started doing art with A in this way while I was still pregnant, so it was easy, and until recently he was sleeping so much that I could count on him resting in a wrap while A and I did our projects. Now I just have to take advantage of his nap times, and some days I don’t get anything done at all. I pictured us doing all manner of fun things while Elliot explored on a mat with his toys, but it seems he had other plans! A day at a time … you’ll find a way, I’m sure!

  • I agree – fall is my favorite season as well! I miss the truly glorious autumns I enjoyed in Minnesota, where the colors are so vibrant. So special you get to celebrate the fall with your family again!

    I love your crafts, especially the leaf crown! And what a beautiful tradition, to say a poem together at night.

    Such a beautiful idea, that fall is a time of balance – love it!

  • I could just smell the fall while reading your post and watching the pictures. I honestly forgot what it is like – we don’t get the real fall here where I am!

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