It would be easy to dismiss Celebrate Family, Don Voss’ roadmap to building a close, happy family through familial celebrations, as a cloying throwback to another era. Certainly there is a Brady Bunch feel to his description of the complicated rituals in his home in the 1960s and ’70s — often based on religious themes and almost always involving craft-making — as his 10 children were growing up. But it would be a mistake not to pay closer attention.
The family’s sheer numbers and elaborate celebrations may be hard for today’s families to relate to: Advent, the Feast of St. Nicholas, Los Posadas, Christmas, a Kristkin gift exchange and Epiphany? Yet Voss’ premise is solid, and he delivers it with a refreshing lack of smugness. His underlying point is that families are the sum of their parts, and their traditions cement memories and security that are necessary for children — even if their eyes roll at the time.
As he takes readers through his family’s typical year, his now-grown children write reflections on each celebration. Readers might wish that part of the book were expanded, perhaps having them explain how they tweaked the traditions to work in their own modern families. The book also suffers from feeling too conflict-free.
It is not clear whether Voss, a devout Catholic, meant for readers to emulate his family’s activities or use them as springboards toward their own traditions. He does offer good takeaway suggestions, even for a secular audience, including a “Best Foot Forward” New Year’s celebration where every child draws his or her foot on a poster and writes goals, such as “less fighting with a sibling” or “getting homework done on time,” inside the outline. Corny? Absolutely. But if it works, what parent wouldn’t be for that?