This past weekend was the Kentucky Derby--a long-standing ritual for many in Kentucky and the world of horse racing. For those of us who grew up reading The Black Stallion, we can envision the race and root for the underdog. Derby Day is full of ritual and tradition, from the big hats the women wear to the race to the mint juleps, Kentucky Hot Browns, and Derby Pie people eat.
How do traditions start? The best traditions are not manufactured or created; they simply grow over time, encompassing new people and new aspects with each new celebration. This year, we are having our final Derby Day party with some beloved neighbors who will move out of state in 10 days.
Our Derby Day tradition started a few years ago (no one knows exactly what year) and was merely a response to some musings about the grand Kentucky Derby tradition and the desire to try a real mint julep. We watched the race just to lend some credibility to our mint julep toast and the tradition was off... running down the track... rounding the first curve.... You get the picture.
Each year, we've added something to the festivities (first, we added Derby Pie... the world's easiest pie to make; second, we added Kentucky Hot Browns--also easy to make; this year, we're adding some extra neighbors). One thing has remained essentially the same: none of us follow horse racing, so we pool our combined ignorance of the race and its contestants while we gather around the TV for 2 minutes of glorious horse racing fame. We raise our mint juleps high, cheer on whoever is the underdog or has a fun name, marvel at the strange world of horse racing and the tiny jockeys, let the kids eat while we chat, and then finish our meal--thoroughly enjoying the good company and the fact that this has become an annual tradition.
That's how the best traditions are: they are organic and grow along with your family. Don't waste too much time creating the perfect experience that you then hope to replicate each year with exactitude. Just go on vacation, celebrate a holiday, do something fun. Let the good times roll and cherish the moment. If something is significant enough to repeat, you will find a way. It might even be better the next go 'round!