2012 was the sixth year we did “Festibond.” It’s the annual celebration in which our singular purpose is to strengthen the bonds that hold our family together and make it great. It’s a collection of traditions including dates, letters, hugs, snacks, games, and breakfast. In 2007, the first year we had Festibond, it was an alternative to Christmas, a holiday I find incredibly silly. It’s no longer a replacement holiday; Festibond is entirely its own thing, and Christmas is something other people do.
Saturday, December 29, was the day this year that worked best with all of our schedules. In the weeks prior, we drafted our letters to each other and planned and went on dates. I took Skye to a Portland Pirates hockey game, Jenna bowling, Hayley to a movie, and Kirsten and I, who don’t normally go out as part of Festibond, went to dinner and watched a movie.
For breakfast this year we went to The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth. The cinnamon rolls were delicious. The other food was good, but not great. It was nice to sit around a large table and enjoy the conversation and share some laughs. After breakfast, we drove home to continue our celebration.
The girls prepared the snacks they had planned. We had crackers and cheese and olives and raw vegetables and baked apples and cookies and pigs in blankets. It was a smorgasbord of delicious treats, and everybody participated and contributed, which made it extra special.
When the snacks were ready, we all piled onto my bed to read our letters to each other. I cannot adequately describe how nice it was to listen to each person read the heartfelt letters they had written. This year we went mostly electronic: Kirsten, Jenna, and I read from our iPads and Skye read her letters from her iPhone. Hayley, who could have read from her iPod Touch, elected to print the letters out on dead trees. In turn, each person read all of their letters. After each letter, which brought smiles, a few laughs, and occasionally tears, the person who wrote the letter, and the person to whom they read their letter, embraced. It was wonderful on many levels.
The letters, as they always are, were replete with stories and memories and gratitude and kindness. It’s been a difficult year for us, and the letters reflected that. The emotions that filled the room as we expressed our love and appreciation for each other, and give each other many hugs, was palpable and deep. Reading letters to each other does exactly what we have always intended it to do, which is to strengthen our family bonds.
We didn’t exchange gifts this year. Hayley wanted to give us gifts, Jenna was ambivalent, and the rest of us did not want a gift exchange to detract from the objective of Festibond. We have exchanged gifts in past years, but our enthusiasm for it has waned, and doing away with the tradition was inevitable. It wasn’t missed by anybody.
When the letters had all been read, and hugs given and received, we moved to the kitchen where we grazed on snacks and played games. This year we played Charades, Guesstures, and Huckle Buckle Beanstalk. An addition to Festibond this year, which Jenna suggested, was a talent show. Skye played the guitar and sang, Jenna played us a violin piece she had prepared, and I did ballet dancing. You will never have the good fortune of watching that video.
The day ended with us piling into the living room to watch Lord of the Rings.
Festibond is always my favorite family activity of the year. It deepens the bonds that hold our family together, and is a lot of fun. It hasn’t changed much in the six years we’ve been doing it, although we tweak it where appropriate. It’s completely open. During one of our Family Night meetings in early December, we discuss what we liked from previous Festibonds, and what we would like to change. That’s how the talent show got added this year, and gift exchange eliminated.
It’s also a great writing exercise, as the girls write one blog post for each of the dates they go on, and another on the big day itself.
I’m already excited for Festibond 2013. Perhaps this will be the year we add a mid-year Festibond, as we’ve discussed for years. It’s not a terrible idea.