TRADITIONS of all kinds!
What would the holidays be without traditions? Although most of us grew up with holiday traditions and have fond memories of them, some families did not. This month I asked ten friends, aging from 25-78, what they recall about holiday traditions: if they had them, what they were, how they transferred those to their own families, or if they added new ones. These friends grew up in different countries, different states, with very different backgrounds. I was hoping to find a thread. Of course, I cannot tell you ALL that was said, but I can tell you, that, “Yes, there was a thread!”
Traditions, according to the psychologists provide a very healthy part of a child’s upbringing. Even, we older people love traditions. Traditions, old or new, have a strong place in our hearts. We hold onto holiday traditions, especially, because they add meaning to our celebrations. One author mentioned that holiday traditions are essentially ritualistic behaviors that nurture us and our relationships. She mentioned that holiday traditions have been around since recorded history. Traditions provide positive memories for children, as well as positive events which everyone can anticipate! Children crave the comfort and security that comes with traditions and predictability. Traditions anchor family members to each other, providing a sense of unity and belonging. (Michele L. Brennan, Nov. 17, 2014). Perhaps you were not fortunate enough to experience traditions while growing up…..that’s ok; you have the freedom to start creating your own!
Here are some fun traditions that ran through the information I gathered:
*Many mentioned a certain food was part of their holiday tradition- in fact, even when they smell the “scent” now, it brings back memories. For some, it was an orange! Many seemed to make caramel rolls on Christmas morning for all to enjoy. One lady mentioned a certain salami that was always brought out on New Year’s Day. Others mentioned the whole meal- how it came together and the wonderful taste and smell when it cooked. They mentioned the mental picture of their mother, or Grandma, or perhaps aunts….all in the kitchen, dutifully preparing enough for all. Chicken and dumplings were mentioned, as well as turkey and ham with all the trimmings. Doesn’t it make you hungry? Pies, cookies, fruitcakes (both dreaded and anticipated!) and Christmas candy—all traditions.
*Another area of memory was the Christmas tree. One friend said she thought they were VERY poor, as her Dad would buy the tree a day or two before Christmas when it was highly discounted! It turned out that he was just very frugal, not poor……and a tree is a tree! I loved that! Others spoke of picking out their tree, decorating it while enjoying a snack of hot chocolate, popcorn, or decorated holiday cookies. What excitement, for small children to “help” decorate the tree, even though imperfect. I grew up in the years of silver tinsel, and every piece had to be “hung.” But, I must confess toward the end, it was “thrown on!” Most often that side became the “back” of the tree!
*Several mentioned enjoying Christmas caroling, while others mentioned watching a Christmas movie year after year, again, associated with traditional snacks; also PJ’s and snuggles on the sofa. All were mentioned with fondness because it included the whole family. Some mentioned watching old family movies on reels, with snacks and lots of laughter.
*One lady recalled a tradition their family had, of giving ONLY three gifts. One was “gold” and was the one that each child desired most, always wrapped in gold paper. Another was “frankincense” which ended up being something for the body- clothing, cologne, lotion, etc. The last one represented “myrrh” and was something that would draw that person closer to the Lord- a book, a CD, a devotional book, etc. Every year the kids KNEW it would be three gifts, and they were excited about it. Predictable! Several mentioned reading the Christmas story before exchanging gifts.
*A couple of my friends told of living in what was, in some ways, a dysfunctional family. (Divorce. Remarriage. Foster Homes. Unsaved parents who did their own thing.) Of course, all that can bring insecurity to a child’s upbringing. One said she desired that her mom and dad would get along with each other; that’s what she wanted for Christmas. (How important is that to children?) Another friend said they celebrated New Years Day, rather than Christmas, in the country she was raised in. It wasn’t until she was saved that she understood the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Now, she has Christmas traditions with her family, and ones that are very different than before.
*Not everyone exchanges gifts with extended family. Grandkids seem to be the exception! My own family quit exchanging gifts with everyone years ago. Really, we all had what we needed and wanted. We always did something for my folks and then we did a “crazy” themed gift. One year, recently, we had a “Make America Great Again” themed gift—which of course had to be red, white and blue. At the gathering, we draw numbers and pick a gift, but the next person in line can pick your gift! You never really know what you are going to get. One year we had to research and buy a gift that “rolled out” from the year we were born. We had everything from Cheerios to laundry soap to Starbucks. THEN, the person who selected the package had to guess whose gift it was. We’ve done a “cowboy” gift, a North Dakota-themed gift; a gift advertised on TV, like the Chia Pet; etc. It really is fun to see the creativity. Sometimes you go home with something you like and other years, not so much. However, it is always fun. Our investment is $10 and I can tell you we get $10 worth of laughter. Now the “little kids” look forward to this themed gift event.
As I think of Holiday Traditions, I am also reminded of establishing traditions throughout the whole year. Because remember, they provide security- something to look forward and make us all feel special. We always had pizza on Saturday nights. Always. We looked forward to it. At that time, it was homemade Chef Boyardee dough and hamburger, onions and cheese! Yummy. How about a story night, in which you read- or one of your children reads- a fairly lengthy book or series. over time. Make sure you have a snack to make the night more festive. Or, how about celebrating certain birthdays (ages 6-12-16?) that the child knows will be extra special….perhaps dinner out with just Dad and Mom. Or maybe they can pick out the whole meal and enjoy at home.
You can always think about doing for others and making traditions that way. Caroling for older relatives or friends, with a plate of cookies! You could volunteer at the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at a Shelter or the Salvation Army. What a great opportunity to teach your children just how BLESSED they are. Most children we know don’t worry about what they will have for supper, or if they will have warm gloves, new pajamas, etc. How about picking up a few inexpensive gifts for those at a homeless shelter, and deliver them with your kids. People in need can always use shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, gloves, etc.
Be creative. If you do not have holiday traditions, consider. Merry Christmas!