Traditions weave families together and tie generations with one another. They keep fond memories alive and give each family a uniqueness.
Perhaps no other season is as steeped in tradition as the Christmas season. It is a time to reminisce, to remember and reflect. For many, it can also be a time of sadness because remembering brings back memories of those that are no longer with us. Keeping traditions alive through the years gives a sense of continuity, a sense of familiarity amidst change and lets us connect with the past.
Traditions can also be a restraint. Sometimes they become a weight, tying us down by compelling us to do things that maybe have outgrown their usefulness. Yes, this season can present a struggle as to whether to keep certain traditions or not. At least, this is how it is in my world.
I love the holidays. I love what the “reason for the season” is. But, like many folks, I could dispense with all the commercialism. There is no more beautiful music than Christmas carols but, when you have heard them since Halloween, I have seen so many folks turning them off when the season finally gets here.
The same goes for gift giving. People spend way too much on way too little. Do you remember all the gifts you got last year? I’ll bet not, but you do remember the friends and family with whom you shared some special time. So many kids rip open packages and throw the contents aside while they are off to the next one. They just get so much stuff that it is overwhelming and no one gift is special.
I still remember one gift from my childhood. It was a 100-color water color set. I like color and had never seen so many shades of colors before that I just often sat and looked at the set. For over 50 years, that one gift has made an impression on me, a small, inexpensive item that was special without the huge price tag. Some gifts aren’t about the money.
Some traditions should be passed down forever. From the time I can remember, I can still hear my mother singing her favorite Christmas carol, “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” Every time she sang it, to me it sounded like angels singing. I love the memory. So, even though she is gone now, whenever I hear that carol now, it evokes special memories.
Some things become tradition just by being. Like some members of the family who will always be an hour late for dinner no matter what time you tell them dinner is served; or the same Jello salad that so and so brings every year even though no one ever eats any; or searching until the Fourth of July for certain kitchen items because everyone (bless their hearts) insist on “helping” clean up after dinner.
The bad part about tradition is when they become a chore instead of fun. I have heard so many people complain that they have to do this and do that and there is no time to enjoy the season. That is sad.
There are things that I have wanted to do for years but it seems that I always run out of time because I am doing all the things that I have to do. I have to make the fruitcakes, I have to bake cookies, I have to put all the decorations up just like I have in years past. By the time I get all these done, there is no time for really enjoying the season and what it is meant to be.
This year I wanted something different. I want to go to some small towns and walk their main streets and browse in the unique shops; nope, not necessarily having to find that perfect gift, but just looking. I want to just drive one night and see the lights. I don’t need to put up all my decorations; I have learned that, for me, less is more.
So, this year I won’t make the fruitcake or the cookies (which is probably better for me anyway). What I will do is sit down with a friend or two and share a cup of cocoa and just enjoy what the season is all about.
I love tradition and some are definitely meant to be carried on. It is hard to let go of something that we have done for years. Change is hard to embrace. But sometimes, by letting go, we free ourselves to enjoy new things and maybe even start new traditions.
This is what I wish to all my friends and family this year; that when you hear the songs about roasting chestnuts over an open fire, or the ones about strolling down city streets with silver bells or dashing through the snow you will actually be able to enjoy those things instead of rushing through some menial task while only wishing you were transported to that magical world.
Tis the season for miracles, for magic and for wonder. If traditions are part of this, that is great and if not, maybe it is time to reconsider which ones to keep and which ones to let go.
I glance at my baking dishes one last time as I head for the door. Twilight is here and it is time to head out to see the lights. A little twinge in me says to do the baking but, instead, I will enjoy the season and what it is meant to be.