According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tradition is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.” In other words, a tradition is something informally passed on from generation to generation. Traditions can be of different natures, religious or social. Sometimes we participate in traditions without even realizing they’re traditions! Traditions are often more prevalent during special times of the year, around holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Naturally, as my family began to celebrate the Christmas holiday around the beginning of December, my mind began to focus on many of our family traditions.
One of my favorite traditions as a kid was putting up our Christmas tree. We didn’t have a real tree, but ours sure felt like it anyway. It was the first tree my parents bought after they were married. After almost 30 years, we had to replace that tree, but the tradition still lives on. Every ornament on our tree has a story behind it; you can barely see the tree at this point. We always put it up in the same way, with the same decorations, watching the same movie. Even though the tree itself is different now, it’s the traditions that keep it alive.
Until this year, my sister and I always made and decorated Christmas cookies (The best part was eating the leftover icing and sprinkles at the end with a knife. ha). I can’t wait to do that again with my nephew one day and see the silly icing/sprinkle combinations he makes. Some of our other traditions include going to see A Christmas Carol at the local theatre, watching The Santa Clause, slaving away at a 1,000-piece puzzle, and driving around looking for Christmas lights.
We always make the same dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, including our traditional desserts and homemade custard. So of course, there’s always the homemade fruitcake. My dad and I have been making this fruitcake together since before I can remember. It’s been passed down for generations and, I’m not going to lie, seems to taste better and better every year. This isn’t your grocery store, “slice up the fruitcake,” fruitcake, let me tell you!
As it happens, traditions begin to transform as we grow older. Siblings get married and their family will start their own traditions. We may modify our old traditions to fit grandchildren in the mix, account for new types of travel, or living in new places. There have been times we discover certain traditions are connected to a certain location or perhaps, are not as important now as they used to be.
This year, I started a few traditions of my own in my own apartment. I got my first Christmas tree and decorated it with my roommate. I made homemade Christmas cards and had a gift wrapping party with me, myself, and I (post to come on gift wrapping!). To put those cards in the mail and watch my family and friends open their gifts, were two of the most rewarding moments of the season.
As we grow, change is inevitable, we just have to ask ourselves how we will handle the change. Since I’ve been in college, I haven’t been home for the entire tree decorating process. My whole family has had to cut out gluten and dairy from our diet, so there are some foods we can’t make or eat anymore. I haven’t seen snow on the ground in 5 years since moving to Florida (okay, maybe that’s not exactly a tradition, but still). However, we have implemented some new traditions too, especially with new family members in the mix, and that doesn’t take away from our old traditions at all.
The point is, the greatest tradition of them all is that we spend the holidays together. The holidays are not so much about the food, the gifts, the location, or the holiday itself. The holidays are about the people we share them with.
As we enter into a new year, let’s take a moment to reflect on the past year and month. I am so fortunate to have family to share these moments with throughout my years and because of them, 2016 ended as a year filled with overwhelming love. There are so many who do not have the luxury of close family or comfortable surroundings.
Whatever traditions you experience throughout the year, my hope for all is this, to have those to share the time, make memories, encourage each other, and sore into the new year with a full heart.
“Tradition is not to preserve the ashes. But to pass on the flame.” -Gustav Mahler