After how many repetitions of an activity does it become a tradition? Need the activity be associated with a holiday or other significant event? Must the activity be repeated in exactly the same manner? If the activity is skipped once or twice, does it count?

I wonder these things because Rachel and I have a tradition (by our definition) of taking a hike on New Year’s Day. We have been starting the year outdoors for more than ten years and perhaps as many as 15 years. Usually, the weather is accommodating but when there is deep snow on the ground, we have cross-country skied instead. One year, there had been light snow which had turned to ice; we hiked on it anyway (but will not do so again; the footing was treacherous). Last year, the conditions were similar and we tried snowshoeing for the first time (a much better solution). One or two times, the weather was too severe (cold, rain and/or snow) to do anything outdoors at all.

There are other New Year’s Eve/Day activities that we have repeated only a few times but which seem like candidates for traditional status. We often have bagels, cream cheese and lox at breakfast, for instance, and Harry Potter movies have become our favored form of entertainment (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, parts 1 and 2, helped keep us awake until midnight this year). When do these formally become traditions or are they already? It is probably up to us to decide.

This year, the weather was excellent—sunny and warm—and we made our way to Fahnestock State Park and the trailhead near Canopus Lake. We hiked south along the Three Lakes trail (blue blazes) at a leisurely pace, first along the edge of a marsh and then down to a stream crossing. It was mid-afternoon and the low winter sun, streaming though the bare trees, reflected off the thick covering of leaves on the forest floor. Long shadows accentuated the texture of the moss growing on fallen tree trunks. The golden sunlight made the moss glow a vibrant green, bright spots of color in an otherwise monochromatic landscape.

Across the stream, the trail rises to meet the Appalachian Trail, an intersection marked with a mighty (big) duck. After waving hello to the folks in Georgia (at the southern end of the trail), we turned north towards Maine (and our parked car). I particularly enjoy this stretch of the Appalachian Trail because it follows an old mine railroad. The trail is elevated on a high stone embankment, a curved section of which reminds me of rail causeways I have seen in Great Britain. Just before the trail reaches our starting point, the grade drops away steeply to one side. The trail itself remains essentially level which makes for easy hiking.

A friend joined us on our hike this year as she did on last year’s snowshoeing expedition. It was nice to share New Year’s Day with her and we hope that her participation—in the hiking, bagels and Harry Potter movies—becomes a part of our holiday tradition.

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