My baby niece, the first of the great-grandchildren, in a large collection of grandkids, was circled by presents as she sat on my sister’s lap ready to experience her first birthday party. Amidst the bags and boxes with bows larger than her little head were two family members holding large garbage bags at the ready. I had my camera in hand prepared to capture each silly expression as she saw what each person had gifted her. It seemed that all systems were go for “present time” as my family affectionately called it.
According to my mother, however, something was missing.
“Who has a pen? Where’s a notebook?” she yelled out as she made her way into the kitchen searching for her purse. After a few seconds, she re-joined us with the writing tools in her hand and gave us permission to continue as we all rolled our eyes. She looked around in shock and said, “You were going to let her open gifts before I had a chance to write who got her what! You’ll need this for the thank you cards!”
How could we forget about thank you cards? Maybe because this tradition is one kept alive by women like my mother, which in turn has become women like my sister and myself. Yet, we live in a time where the many traditions have gone out the window or been reimagined altogether, leaving some to think the world has simply gone crazy!
Writing Thank You Cards
When someone goes out of their way to show you an act of kindness or bring you a gift, a thank you card has traditionally been a great way to acknowledge their gesture. In fact, many households had personalized stationery in a drawer at all times for this exact purpose. While this tradition is still one followed by many people, it’s definitely not as commonly practiced. With technology at our fingertips, many people will send a quick text message of appreciation or drop an email into the generous person’s inbox as a way of thanks.
Baking for Your Child’s Birthday at School
If ever the abandonment of a tradition was difficult to swallow for my own mother, it was this one. (No pun intended!) Due to the spike of food allergies such as gluten and peanut, schools now have rules around what parents can bring into the classroom. Specifically, parents are no longer competing to be the Betty Crockers or Martha Stewarts of their child’s classroom with only prepackaged, store-bought items allowed. To the generations of mothers who slaved away baking the perfect cupcakes to celebrate little Jimmy’s birthday, I’m sure this is a travesty!
Wearing Black at Funerals
When losing a loved one, the mourning period often can be reflected in the clothing worn by the family. In many cultures, funeral garments were typically black, dark navy or gray until more recent generations began reimagining traditional funerals as “celebrations of life.” With this, a change of attire was brought on. Bright colors like yellow, blue, red and orange can now easily be spotted at services and for some, this has taken some getting used to.
Welcoming New Neighbors
Your mother or grandmother may have moved into a new neighborhood and experienced a more “Leave it to Beaver” form of welcome than you’re used to. A knock on the door after moving in often resulted in a freshly baked pie or a basket of muffins brought from a new neighbor. Sometimes a card saying, “Welcome to the neighborhood!” would arrive following the family’s move in. While many new neighbors still experience a nice introduction or warm smile and wave from the people across the street for instance, the added gesture and personalization is not as common.
Mailing Invitations for Events
Baby’s first birthday or son’s graduation coming up? Finding the perfect invitations to send and coordinating stamps would be on your party checklist. You can now add stationery to the ever growing list of industries that millennials are being blamed for killing. Facebook invites, wedding websites, and group texts have taken the place of traditional invitations for many people. Who needs to spend an extra dollar per guest on RSVP cards when they can mark their attendance by going online?
Girls Only Bridal and Baby Showers
The “no boys allowed” sign is coming off of what was commonly known as “girls only” celebrations. A new, more inclusive and less traditional generation invented “Jack & Jill” showers where a mix of genders are in attendance. Bridal showers can be replaced with a “His & Her” shower, embracing a shindig that allows the bride and groom to celebrate together with their friends and family. Baby shower themes like “Brews and Baby-Q” allow the mommy-and-daddy-to-be to be showered together in love and gifts for their bundle of joy.
We can all agree that the world is changing at an alarming rate, especially when we compare it to the one our parents remember growing up in. When it comes to things like etiquette and traditions, we are the ones who are in control of just how fast these changes are made in our lives, if at all. Don’t be too quick to dismiss the ones that help you feel connected to your upbringing or your personal style and flair. If my own mother has taught me anything, it’s that everything old comes back again; from bell bottom jeans to wedding trends. Some of these old ways may soon make a comeback and until then, decide which ones you’re happy to say goodbye to and hold onto the ones that feel right.