It’s what we’re used to. Traditions are probably rarely based on absolute truth, but thrive on what we’ve “always done.”
For better or worse, we hand down from one generation to the next, our habits, rituals, beliefs, and information. Don’t ask me why certain of these things pass down to our children and others don’t stick. Thus, you can’t blame everything on mom and dad, but some stuff descends like a thud.
My husband and I have been known to exclaim in astonishment upon observing our adult child, “Oh my goodness, she got a dose of that from you and a dose from me. The poor child hasn’t got a chance.” And, nothing touches this mom’s heart more than to see my grown daughter imitating something good that I’ve passed on to her. “You’re just like your father,” can be a blessing or a curse, hopefully a blessing.
We all want to live on in terms of a legacy, after we’re gone from this realm. We’d like to transmit something good of ourselves to the generations. That’s why we make traditions.
For example, Christmas. The facts are that if your reason for the season is the birth of Jesus, you’ve got the date wrong. But who cares? Christmas traditions bring happiness in a world that has much to be unhappy about.
Happy birthday Jesus, anyway. We’ve often included birthday cake on Christmas, just because of something akin to tradition.
The Christmas tree was traditionally a fir tree, a “paradise tree” commemorating the religious feast day of Adam & Eve, on December 24th, in Germany. This reminds me of a silly quirk of our times and technology. When I text using the word “for,” more often than not, it materializes as fir. Auto-correct thinks, uncannily that I’m obsessed with the fir tree. Just to be clear, I am not.
We have entertained the gamut of Christmas tree traditions. We used to get freshly cut evergreens or cut them ourselves. Then, when our daughter was born in New Mexico, we bought a potted black pine tree for her first Christmas and subsequently planted it in the southeast corner of our property here in Pennsylvania where it guarded our home for many years. For the last decade or more we have used an artificial tree, recycled from year to year but still managing to beautify our home for the holiday season.
The last few years, as we age, we threaten to relieve our holiday of the Christmas tree tradition, but as traditions go, our offspring will not allow that tradition to wane. And, honestly it wouldn’t be “the same,” without that tree.
Should you suffer from short term memory loss, what you’re used to, what you’ve always done, keeping things the same, and how you think about things, becomes even more important than for others who just dislike change. Traditions keep us going, putting one foot in front of another, through the seasons.
Something like body memory or pop-up memories can take over when mental memory fails, as long as nothing changes. Woo-hoo, good luck with that.
What would we do without lights at Christmas time? In the darkness of winter, Christmas lights illumine our way, brighten our countenance and lighten our burdens.
I think it was Prince Albert, the German spouse of England’s Queen Victoria who popularized the Christmas tree with candles illuminating it. Can you imagine candles on an evergreen tree?
I’m sorry if you don’t appreciate the Chevy Chase movie, Christmas Vacation, but I can’t move on until I mention two things from that film. First, the vision of candles on a Christmas tree, reminds me of Uncle Lewis absentmindedly lighting his cigar next to the Christmas tree, wiping it out along with the cat, his toupee and the chair. Second, Clark thanked his dad for passing down via tradition, “everything I know about outdoor illumination.”
Christmas candles and the tradition of gift-giving are both symbolic of Christ as the light of the world, and his birth as the ultimate gift to humankind. Purposeful or not, when we light the darkness at Christmas time and give gifts to one another, we’re imitating the Light of the World.
Stockings are hung after the tradition of Saint Nicholas, who as the story goes, after dark threw three bags of gold through an open window, to bless a family with a much-needed dowry, with one landing in a stocking. And, the tradition stuck, as many of them do.
Traditionally we had Christmas ham for our Christmas day meal. I like ham. Everybody else in the family tolerates it, for me, I think. So, this year I’m starting a new tradition, “Greek for Christmas.” We’re having Greek meatloaf, Spanakopita (the kids say mine is better than theirs in Athens or the islands), and salad scattered with feta and such.
Known for mix and match in my fashion, I’ll do the same for our Christmas meal and each element will be traditional somewhere. The gingerbread, aka Jesus’ birthday cake, topped with a choice of raisin or lemon sauce is traditional at Christmas partly because it was thought a long time ago in England, my ancestral home, to be sacred and only allowed at Christmas or Easter. Also, ginger calms the stomach which let’s face it, is way overtaxed throughout the holidays.
Happy traditions and Merry Christmas.