I hope that each of you had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving this year and that you had time with your family that was fulfilling and joyful. There are so many that do not have a family to spend time with and it makes me sad, that I make sure to spend quality time with mine.
At this time of year, Americans spend so much of their time thinking about and living for TRADITION. What does that mean really? Here’s what Webster’s has to say:
Tradition: noun (tra·di·tion | \trə-ˈdi-shən)
1(a): an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom)
(b): a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
4: characteristic manner, method, or style in the best liberal tradition.
I think we can see in each of these definitions how this time of year has something about it that can be defined by the word as tradition or traditional. As a Christian family, we celebrate the birth of Jesus (albeit we understand that Jesus was not born in December) and we do so both in a religious and a secular manner. We decorate our home with lights, a Christmas tree, we have Santa, and the rest, but we do have other traditions that are not as common with other families. For instance, in my family, we practice with our children a tradition of gift giving called Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. For those who know the Christmas story, you will know that that three Wise Men from the East traveled to Bethlehem to see and worship Jesus and that they brought with them gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These were gifts of rare beauty, aroma, and luxury. We have taught our children that Jesus was the most special child to be celebrated; and that, of course, He came and was born so that He would later grow up to suffer and die for our sins so that we might have eternal life in Heaven with Him. If He only got three gifts, why should they receive more than that? They do understand that concept. So, they are given the challenge to pare their list to three of the most special gifts that they really want. Gold being the most special; it can be anything. Frankincense has to be something that will be educational, but it can be a game or a toy but it must be educational. Myrrh must be something of clothing or shoes, something that they really want that they will wear. The good thing about this tradition is that it fits every age, even Mom and Dad! Although in the past couple of years, we have only been giving one or two gifts to each other.
This year, my daughter, who is 10, wants to pull back on the inside decorating a bit too. I like that, but I’m not sure. She wants a real tree, though. I don’t know how that is going to go over with Dad, but I like it. I love the smell of a real tree. I am the one who does all the decorating anyway. Dad works 16 hour days, so he won’t really know or be a part to it, but I still like to have his input. She says she wants a simple, all-white tree. It takes me back to the time before I was married and I had a simple tree with white birds and little nests on it and I used and Scottish plaid ribbon around the tree and burlap around the bottom of the tree. I called it my Scottish Highlander tree. For so many years, we have had the kiddie tree with all the homemade kiddie ornaments and all the Winnie The Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Disney Characters, Birthday Commemorative ornaments, etc., the thought of doing something different is so appealing. But, it is breaking TRADITION!! Is she going to tell me she doesn’t believe in Santa next? I just don’t know!!
In the past year, my husband, mother, and I have all discovered that we have Ashkenazi Jewish roots. My husband and I both have almost 3% and my mother has less than a percent. (Remember I was adopted, so this is my adopted mother.) We find this fascinating to share roots with Jesus, even as slight as it might be. So, this year I plan for us to celebrate Chanukah. When I was growing up I had two best friends who were Jewish and I loved going to their homes during Chanukah to see their Menorah and to see what they had gotten each night. I loved the story of what Chanukah meant. I really couldn’t understand why the story didn’t mean something to Christians since we had the Old Testament and it was supposed to be the same as the Jewish Torah, or so I thought anyway. So, this year we start a new tradition by incorporating the Menorah, but not the gift giving part. I am sure my kids will want that, but not this Momma. For me, it is about instilling the faith of the Maccabees into our family and knowing that no matter what, in the face of similar circumstances we, too, could survive 8 days because we have, not only, the Jehovah God, but also Jesus Christ!
The New York Post ran an article recently about this very subject. I repost here: https://nyp.st/2BOqfDD. The article indicates that 32% of their respondents attempt to repeat the traditions of their grandparents, and nearly half attempt to replicate the traditions that have been passed down in their families for generations. This study was commissioned by Kohl’s Department Stores and conducted by One Poll. It was a survey of over 2,000 people. I love reading that people have unique traditions like hiding presents for younger children, making gifts with their pets, and sending cards to people their DON’T know (how awesome is that!). Seventy-three percent said that holiday traditions were important to them. It’s making those memories and spending those valuable hours of quality time together that makes all the difference in the world.
I pray that each of you will continue your traditions this year and that, maybe, you’ll find new ones to add as well. If you haven’t tested your DNA, there are many sales going on with the DNA testing companies. Jump on them while you can. It is so worth it, even if you don’t care about meeting your 4th cousin twice removed from Kansas! It’s okay. There are so many other ways to use that data to find out more about your ethnicity in modern and ancient times, as well as health information that can help you in preventing illness, most for free! And if I can encourage you to do anything else, Please share your history with your children and your grandchildren. Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it all…the good, the bad, and even the ugly. They will thank you and adore you for it.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Festivus (LOL)