Holiday Traditions

Reader Contribution by Mary Lewis
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It’s December, the month of Christmas songs everywhere and anxiety over family get-together deadlines. One way our family has found to slow the season down is to pick a few things we love about Christmas and focus on those. We bake breads, cookies and pies and share them with family and friends. We pick out a live Christmas tree and then moderately decorate our living room. We listen to Christmas songs sparingly. We go for drives to see our community’s light displays. These activities have become our family traditions.

A tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way. Traditions are things that get repeated year after year, but they must start somewhere.

One of the quirkiest traditions I’ve seen is a pickle ornament. No one seems to know the true origin, but I have one on my Christmas tree. The most consistent story I’ve found is that the first child to find the pickle Christmas ornament is to be awarded the job of handing out the presents.

Another story I found a few years ago is about how some people put a beaded spider ornament on their Christmas tree. Supposedly, this is a tradition that began in Europe. The story behind the ornament is that a widowed mother and her children were too poor to decorate their Christmas tree. Friendly spiders spun elaborate webs on the evergreen. The family woke on Christmas morning, opened the curtains and sunshine reflected off the webs, turning them silver and gold which made them look like tinsel. The family’s future was brighter from then on.

My kids and I made some beaded spiders and we placed them in our tree. In creating our own spiders, I had the opportunity to share with my children their great-grandmother’s love of beadwork. She made the most beautiful, Victorian style ornaments. I still have some of them.

Food is one of the most common ways to pass down family traditions. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to cook. Unfortunately, our home is far too small to host a large holiday gathering. In December of 2012, I was honored to be asked by my husband’s stepmother to cook Christmas dinner for the family. My husband and I did a lot of the cooking at our home, and then finished the meal at my in-laws’ home. It was a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but I added in some new twists. The cranberry sauce was homemade, and instead of green bean casserole, I made asparagus casserole. The stuffing was made from breads my husband baked, and we added brown and wild rice to the mix.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. And I was so happy to have shared my skills with family. I’m also incredibly grateful for that experience as my mother-in-law died unexpectedly a little over a year later.

Another tradition we have is to make eggnog pie for my father-in-law. I made the first one years ago, and he loved it. Now, I make at least one to have for dessert with him and his new wife, and one to send home with them.

Traditions are what build our family story. They remind us of what was and allow us to build new memories for the future.

Please leave a comment to share your special holiday traditions.

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