Do you have treasured traditions in your home during the holiday months? Whether they be religious in nature or non-religious, traditions are an important part of family. What exactly is tradition? It is the passing on of customs and beliefs from generation to generation. It is important to remember that there are healthy traditions and then there are some traditions that should just be broken.
There’s an excellent movie called Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye, the father in the movie enjoys talking to the camera. One particular lecture he gave was about tradition. He said, “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. We have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat, how to work, wear clothes. You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you!” Following a contemplative pause he says, “I don’t know.” Even as a young girl that always made me laugh! Why would you continue to do something without understanding why? Have you ever heard the story about the woman who cuts the ends off her ham before baking it? She says her mother did it and her mother’s mother did it because it always made the ham taste better. Come to find out, the Grandmother only cut the ends off so the ham would fit into the pan. Taste had nothing to do with it at all! Does your family have some “ham traditions” or traditions like Tevye, ones that you have no idea why you do them but you do them anyway simply because it is tradition? Sometimes in the passing on of traditions the meaning will get lost over the years.
Losing the specific meaning behind a tradition turns it from something deep and meaningful to thoughtless nonsense. This can be avoided, however, with one simple task…journaling. This holiday as you gather with your family and loved ones, take a moment to discuss tradition. With pen and book ready, write down the beloved traditions unique to your family and why they are meaningful. The tradition journal you have created will become a treasured family heirloom and will be enjoyed for generations.
Do all traditions need to be deep and profound, like those of a religious nature? Some traditions may include gathering every Christmas Eve to sing a carol or two while sipping on some wassail. Some family members may think it is a beloved tradition so Aunt Marge can belt out opera style, all the wrong notes to Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer. When in reality the evening is tradition because 40 years ago, the family at the time was stranded in a snow blizzard and all they could talk about was being in one of their home’s sipping wassail and singing carols. Thus, a tradition was born the following year. If only someone had written down in a book how the tradition came about.
One tradition I grew up with, was the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible every Christmas Eve. I have since brought this tradition into my own home, as well as the reading of other Christmas stories we have collected over the years. My children look forward to specific books each year and now take their turn in reading one or two to the family as we nibble on treats and sip on something warm and delicious. Reading a book and interacting as a family shouldn’t be a nostalgic occurrence, reminiscent of days gone by. Rather, a tradition, one that will be passed down from generation to generation and never going out of style.
This holiday season, establish a new tradition with your family, one involving literacy…writing in a tradition journal and reading treasured Christmas tales together. In 40 years when your children are grown and have families of their own, someone may ask, “Hey, when did we start this tradition and why?” The response will be found in the journal, which may say, “A family that reads together, stays together.”
Written by: Suzanna Tolman