Expository writing is writing that explains, sets forth, or defines a given topic. Expository is the adjective form of the noun exposition. Both words are derived from the verb expose, which means to make visible or known, to lay open, to put forth. Basically, all the writing you do in school is – in one sense or another – expository writing. You are always in the process of trying to explain something, whether it is your view of a particular work of literature, the causes of a particular historical event, the moral reasons to act in one way rather than another, why a chemical reaction did (or did not) take place, etc. In some ways, even a letter you write to a friend is expository. Descriptive, narrative, persuasive, and literary writing (all of which we have done this year) are each examples of expository writing.
Your next writing assignment is to write an expository essay about a family or cultural tradition that is important to you. Your topic can be an ethnic, cultural, or religious tradition; it can also be something that is important to your family, something that your family does ritualistically and thus has become a tradition. It can be a tradition that relates to an important holiday, like Christmas or another holiday. For example, you can write a great essay about the way you celebrate the holiday each year at your Grandmother’s home or how you always set up the tree the same way. There might be some food or meal that is an important tradition for your family. Of course, I would love this essay to be an opportunity for you to talk with your family about your traditions and to feel some pride in them. But that is not required. My sample essay is about the tradition in my family to go to Maine for a week every Summer: not a religious or cultural tradition, but something that has become very much a part of our family now – a tradition.
Start thinking and brainstorming. Talk to your family members; write things down. Come to class on Monday with some ideas. Try to have an outline or a topic. I will give you time in class on Monday and Tuesday: about 20 minutes each day. As always, this will be an opportunity to write in class, show me ideas, discuss your essay with others, and get some momentum. This essay should be of typical length: 1-2 pages typed, 4-6 sides handwritten, double-spaced either way. The essay is due Monday, 19 May; it is worth 100 points. Do your best.
a food your family prepares a special way or for a special occasion
a religious celebration or holiday you observe in a special way
a special article of clothing you wear or was made for you
the way you celebrate certain birthdays, holidays, or weddings
a way you recognize special times of year: marking the beginning of Summer, etc.
Family Tradition – sample essay Mr. Castellano
“It’s a tradition!” That’s what my nephew says whenever we do something – yet again – during our various trips to Maine over the past ten years. And he’s right: the entire experience has become one extended tradition. What started as an inexpensive way for my wife, children, and me to get away for a week or two when the children were little has now blossomed into a full-blown ritual. My wife’s sister’s family first joined us for one weekend a few times; then they came once for a full week. Now, for about the last five years, it has become an expectation that the two families will spend at least one week together somewhere in Maine. Each time we go, more and more aspects of the trip take on ritualistic, almost sacred significance. Indeed, going to Maine is a tradition, and one that we have come to cherish very much.
Perhaps it is the ritualistic nature of children – their desire for consistency and repetition – that gives almost every activity the chance (or danger) of becoming a tradition. I have come almost to fear doing something new because it will become yet another “tradition.” For example, about three years ago, we thought it would be fun to take the children to a drive-in movie. It was fun, and we all enjoyed a rather silly movie (Master of Disguise). But now the trip to the drive-in has taken on status, and we have no choice but to go – no matter how bad the film playing might be. Our only hope of escaping is if the movie is rated “R.” When I think of our vacations in Maine, I think of the opportunity to get away and relax; the kids love the anticipation of enacting their various traditions. For them, I think it is half the fun of the vacation.
Another important tradition is taking a fairly lengthy hike. Fortunately, we have already walked three or four different trails; so there is no one route that has become the tradition. We have been able to branch out and explore different mountains. Of course, I would be disappointed if we returned to New York City and had not gotten into the wilderness and seen the mountains up close. But even if I felt like not hiking one year, the children are there to make sure we go on a hike. When he brings it up, my nephew will use the one phrase that guarantees he will get his way: “It’s a tradition.”
I probably cannot recall each of the activities that now constitute the entire tradition. One thing the five cousins always do is play endless games of LIFE. (It seems so tedious and almost depressing to me.) We also always go to the same ice cream parlor at least two or three times during the week. The night before we leave, we go to the same restaurant and, usually, eat the same meals. It is a little scary for me. As I close in on middle age, I am very conscious of falling into mindless routines; I want to make sure I remain open to new experiences and new ways of doing things. By now, there are enough aspects of the tradition that I have come to find silly or even annoying. But then I realize that, through these “traditions,” our children are forming lifetime memories. I know my children think of going to Maine with their cousins not as a privilege but as a right. And, without getting melancholy, I also realize that these trips to Maine will not go on forever: they have a limited lease (like everything else in life). So, at this point, I am inclined to let the tradition go on as long as it possibly can. I already have one eye on the time when I will look back fondly on these idyllic vacations.
Every family and organization inherits and creates its own traditions. I wish I could say I was foresighted or smart enough to have consciously created this one. I wasn’t. But I am smart enough to recognize a great gift when I get one. Traditions take on lives of their own, and this one certainly has. I still fear that too many aspects of life can become routine. At the same time, I know that rituals are the heart of religious experience, and they help to define and create meaning. This one definitely has. So, when it comes time to start thinking about Summer vacation, I know I will be telling my wife, “Let’s go to Maine with your sister: it’s a tradition!”