Summer Cottage Rituals

This summer marks 34 years of cottaging at Lake Huron in the small town of Grand Bend. During these 34 years, we’ve developed many cottage rituals and habits.  There are rituals for every season of the year, but the summer cottage rituals have special meaning. Summer is the season when we spend most of our time ‘living’ at the cottage rather than coming for a weekend.

Most people have rituals in their lives.  Usually, rituals occur around pivotal life events such as marriage, or the birth of a child, or death. Rituals are often associated with some form of religious or ceremonial action that is performed in an established order. A ritual can also be a form of behaviour that is accepted by a group or family.

Our Summer Cottage Rituals 

Cottage rituals provide a different kind of meaning than religious or ceremonial events. Cottage rituals are the informal traditions that give continuity, predictability, and comfort to our family.

I like to think of cottage rituals as things we anticipate as part of our summer routine — Canada Day fireworks over the lake, barbeques, beach time, casual entertaining, lazy summer afternoons, and evenings watching constellations when the sky is dark and stars are out.

There is no formality nor order to our cottage rituals but there are familiar behaviours that are part of every cottage season. It’s a time for family weekends and a time to re-connect with friends who we don’t see in the city. Special people get the best beds. Worries drop away with a glass of red in hand. Conversations about what’s important in life happen effortlessly.

Favourite Traditions

Shared connections with family and cottage neighbours bring comfort and a sense of belonging.  Over the years traditions develop. Some of my favourites include:

  1. Sitting on the deck outside our bedroom with a cup of morning coffee and chatting with my husband while listening to bird songs in the woods.
  2. Practising yoga outdoors with fresh air filling my lungs with every breath.
  3. Attending summer theatre performances at the nearby Huron Country Playhouse or the Stratford Festival Theatre. There’s always music, dancing, comedy, and drama to delight the senses.
  4. Wearing cottage clothes. After so many years of cottaging, I’ve learned to keep a supply of casual t-shirts, shorts, sandals, and warm sweaters at the cottage.  I look forward to wearing them; cottage clothes are like old friends.
  5. Eating outdoors. Summer foods like watermelon, corn on the cob, ice cream have a better flavour when consumed al fresco.  The same can be said for summer drinks. Craft beer, gin &tonic, and wine spritzers have a special taste on a shady deck.
  6. Enjoying sand and water when it’s a beach day.  I love jumping the waves, running up and down the dunes with my grand-daughter, and reading in my beach chair.
  7. Weekly trips to the farmer’s market for seasonal fruits and veggies. There is simply no comparison between produce from the farmer’s market and imported produce at the local grocery store.
  8. Ditto for fresh fish.  My favourite is yellow perch from the lakeside fish market seasoned only with salt and pepper and fried in butter.
  9. To end a perfect day at the cottage, there’s usually an incredible sunset. The photo below was taken from my favourite spot on the dune.
Lake Huron sunset
Colours of Lake Huron just after sunset


Not all of the summer cottage rituals are fun and games.  There are the usual household tasks of cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  Seasonal jobs such as cleaning the decks, washing windows, taking outdoor furniture out of winter storage, pumping bicycle tires, and spraying for spiders take time away from leisure.  Thankfully yard is treed and has no grass to cut. But there are wood chips to spread and perennials that need mulching, fertilizing, and watering when the weather is hot and dry.

To many readers, these summer cottage rituals may sound quite ordinary.  For me, they deepen the summer experience because of the associated feelings and emotions that add richness and meaning to life. When we purchased our cottage we never imagined that the end result would be a strong relationship with a ‘place’.  Our intent was merely to own a vacation home. Yet we developed new habits, had new adventures and created pivotal memories with every passing summer. Summer cottage rituals have added a new dimension to family traditions that mean more than simply a vacation home at the lake.

Thanks for reading my post.  I’m interested to hear your reflections about summer rituals.  For many readers, summer means vacation travel or visits to favourite city museums and galleries.  Please send a comment with your best summer memories and rituals.

6 Replies to “Summer Cottage Rituals”

  1. When I lived in Toronto, summer rituals included many long walks on the boardwalk in the Beach, where I lived. It meant meandering along Queen E., stopping and chatting with friends, taking 3 hours to complete a 1/2 hour errand. It was bicycling all over the city, but particularly along to the Distillery District, and through the Don Valley. So many wonderful parts to this city!
    Now, in London, summer rituals have to include all the wonderful festivals in Victoria Park, Volunteering at one of them makes it an even richer experience. When I had the house on Bruce St., I had many breakfasts & lunches with friends on my wonderful shady deck. Miss those! Also love the bicycle trails in London which get a great deal of use from my partner & me. Sitting with tea at the Black Walnut, dinner at Old South Pub, so many lovely spots to share with friends.
    And the gardening. Summer and gardening are synonymous. Never a chore, always a happy place for me.
    Lastly, the summer get togethers with all my siblings and many of their offspring and grandchildren. Love seeing all the new generations!
    Sad to see you go, summer.

    1. Ah …’ve shared so many rich memories! Bravo for living every day to it’s fullest. That’s what keeps that smile on your face!

  2. Linda Goddard says: Reply

    Your words evoke many memories of camping with my parents …tenting, tent trailering at new provincial parks like Point Farms in Goderich when it first opened in the 60’s …we used to go there for weekends and for longer weekends, we went to Inverhuron by Kincardine and camped at Limekilm…Mind you it is all changed now but back then to my brother and I and our dog, it was magical.

    1. We need to savour these memories and re-create those good times if the opportunity arises! I loved tent trailering when our son was a little guy. Too many Canadian children never get a chance to go camping and experience our wonderful parks and conservation areas. Even if the camping weekend was only 30 minutes from home, we felt that we had escaped the city!

  3. Afternoon tea with the Book Club members, wonderful!

    1. Let’s make afternoon tea with book club members a ritual! It was great fun. Next year I’ll have a better hat!

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