My family makes an annual pilgrimage. No, not to Mecca nor to Jerusalem. And not for any overt religious purpose. But our annual camping trip to the lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains has become a tradition, as my son says “more important than Christmas.”

The tradition started when I took my son, age seven, and my daughter, age four, to meet my brother and his wife at the laSardine Lakeke. Although our wires got crossed and we didn’t connect with my brother, we loved the lake and had a great time on our own. We went back the next year, and every year since.

We’ve repeated the trip every year for 27 years. Just the thought of that amazes me. Through all the growing up and changes in our lives, this one constant remains. My children have brought various friends and lovers with them each year, creating a kind of epic multi-year drama, with different characters inhabiting a constant stage. The trip has become a family reunion of sorts and we try to schedule it so as many of “the regulars” can come as possible.

We have so many emotional connections to the place. So many markers in our lives are tied to the annual trip. We buried a dog there; we sprinkled my brother’s ashes there. The woods are filled with memoBig Springries of the fairy houses my daughter built out of stones and twigs and acorn caps. We’ve hiked to the same lakes, waterfalls, and fire lookouts again and again with different friends and relatives. Ever the same and ever changing.

I’ve had the feeling many times that our time at the lake is our real life, while what goes on the rest of the year is just fill. Now that my children are in their thirties, with families of their own, and I live in another country, it’s more difficult to keep up the tradition. But it’s even more difficult to let go of something that has meant so much to us.

Do you have any “non-traditional” traditions in your family? Please share your stories in the Comments.

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