Webster's defines "tradition" as: 1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice; 2. something that is handed down; 3. a long established or inherited way of thinking or acting; 4. a continuing pattern of cultural beliefs or practices; ...The definition goes on for several more explanations, but I think you get the idea.

Growing up, we had a few traditions. Some were so entrenched in our lives that we didn't realize they were traditions until we stopped practicing them. Things like, Wednesday was spaghetti night; Saturday, we had beans and franks; and on Sundays we usually had a sit-down meal at around 2 o'clock. We called it dinner, which cracks my daughters up every time I ask, "So what's for dinner?" They call it supper.

Other traditions were explained in sincere, one on one talks, like when my Mom told me why we went to church on Sunday or why we didn't put the Baby Jesus in the creche until Christmas morning.

As my children grew, I practiced some of these traditions without much thought; they were simply conditioned responses to the stimuli of a particular time of year. Perhaps it is getting older and having grandchildren that brings me to this place of reflection. Or, perhaps the catalyst for examining traditions is our first Christmas without my Dad.

Mom and Dad had a tradition that
each year, when decorating the tree, they always put up a red and gold-trimmed ribbon before anything else went on the tree. It was from the first Christmas after they were married. It was their only decoration that year. This year, without Dad the significance of this tradition will have changed greatly.

Upon further reflection, I realized that as the holy/holidays arrive, I planned to do what I had been taught to do, without realizing it was a learned response. This has made me stop to look more closely at the reasons for each tradition, weeding out the ones that no longer serve a useful purpose or have lost their meaning and focusing in on the ones that are truly significant to Roger and me.

To begin with, we put candles in our windows this year, not because folks seem to be returning to the days of lighting up their homes, but as a simple reminder that the Light still shines bright in a world of darkness. I love the symbolism of the candle and have used it often in my teaching. The simplicity of its message of Light and Illumination is powerful.

We will put up a tree. I didn't have a tree two Christmases ago, and I won't ever do that again. I found it to be very depressing. Our tree is artificial - our contribution to the environment on many levels: more living trees left to clean the air, less pollution from dead trees being burned or thrown into dumps. The tree is symbolic of Life and Hope. "Ever" green, it reminds us that Life goes on from season to season.

Along with decorating the tree, I will decorate the inside and outside of the house. Outside, there will be fresh greens, red berries hung with ribbons on the door and light posts. Inside, there will be vignettes of angels (I love my angels...they remind me that I am never alone.) and snow people, which reminds me to stay child like...full of expectation, hope and wonder.

We will send greetings, but only to the friends and family we won't see over the next few months. However, if this doesn't get done before the end of December, I am not going to stress out. It will get done within the first few weeks of the New Year. (Once I got wrapped around taking care of babies, working, etc. and didn't send them until April!)

Another tradition we have scaled down greatly is gift giving. We, both, felt the need to go back to the times when gifts were small and mean-filled, usually homemade and always personal. Again, as a way to help give to the world, many of our gifts will be fair trade.

And, we will have a creche (manger scene) or two. (It is why I celebrate this season, for which I make no apologies. I find it sad that so many feel the need to apologize to the world for practicing what they believe in. My feeling is that no matter what your faith tradition, you should be able to celebrate and share it with others.) The Baby will be hidden until Christmas morning and, God willing my mind doesn't go on vacation, I will find Him and place Him in the manger before we do anything else.

These will be the traditions that Roger and I will follow. However, my daughters are now all of an age where they are developing their own traditions. I have watched with interest as my oldest daughters sort out the traditions they wish to keep. I try to remain neutral to their decisions. It is, after all, their lives. I wonder what wonderful traditions my granddaughters will cherish, as I see them becoming more aware of their world. It is an exciting time for all.

My two youngest daughters are just beginning this journey. One is off to Utah to discover life without immediate family nearby. For her, I think traditions will become an important part of this season. The other is on the threshold of the future, so it is too soon to know what she will decide. Meanwhile, Roger's daughter, a freshman at Smith College is enjoying learning the traditions associate with her school as well as those observed by her classmates while continuing many of the traditions of her family.

So, whether you will be keep time-honored traditions or creating new ones, may the traditions you practice during this season of Light and Love, enrich your life and those close to you. May you be reminded of the many blessings we all have, the many sacrifices of those who came before us, and the many dreams for a world of Peace we all hope for today and each day into the New Year.


pERiWinKle said…
It was so much fun to think of 'new' traditions to start in our new family of 3...and after we did ours...we started with the traditions of my mom...which i love!!! But I think, as a new, young family, you have to have something that is unique to your own family...combined that with all the lovely traditions of your family...and you have a magical time of memories to create! My sister and I also spoke about this...and we tried to combine these, so that our children one day will be able to look back, and continue with the traditions we all had...whether new or old...but family!

Beautiful post...and so happy that you are putting up your christmas tree! It stays special! xx
Anonymous said…
Beautiful post on family traditions.

In this world we need the rituals of family traditions to remind us of the preciousness of life; it is our family ties that strengthens our earth connection, a sense of belonging and being protected in the arms of love and caring.

May the joy and light of this holiday season surround you and your loved ones with many blessings!

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