“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
― Gustav Mahler
Earlier this month, I opened my old address book and sent out a couple dozen Christmas cards. Even though I stay in touch with lots of people through social media, this is a holiday tradition I love, and I always include a brief personal note. It’s not about the card, but rather the connection I enjoy preserving.
The holidays are filled with traditions. Some we anticipate with great excitement like the gathering of family, the opening of gifts, and the preparation of special foods. Other traditions, we’d just as soon let go of, like my grandmother’s English plum pudding. Seriously, I don’t think a single person besides Grandma W liked it. But did we eat it every year? You bet we did, and with a smile.
What traditions did you have as a child you still wished happened today?
I remember when I was a child, going downtown Milwaukee to see the department store window decorations. They were tremendous works of art and in many cases, engineering, and we went every year. In the evening, we’d drive through neighborhoods to see the decorated houses. Those are the holiday traditions when we visited Grandpa and Grandma S, as much as any other I can remember.
Another was the displaying of cards my family received at a time when everyone sent holiday cards. As the collection grew, my father would create a symmetrical layout and begin taping them around the built-in bookshelves and wooden archway that led from our living room to the dining room. He would often adjust this as we received more. Today, I can close my eyes and see my dad doing this, and it not only brings a smile, but a tear as well.
The holidays are a difficult time for many people. Why? Many reasons, but I think a contributing factor is the absence of traditions people once valued. Family (and good friends) they loved to gather with have passed away, moved, or the relationships are now fractured. Circumstances that previously carried on traditions have been disrupted or no longer exist. Drawing back to the quote at the beginning, the fire is out.
Traditions are important in every culture and family, and if you are hard-pressed to think of any you celebrate today, I’d encourage you to start new ones. It’s not too late.
I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, filled with happy traditions, and the effort to begin creating new ones. Maybe that starts with fanning the fire in you, as well as someone else.