A post-Christmas reflection on the holiday traditions that have come and gone in my family.
(The above is a Fiddler on the Roof reference – a classic movie I was introduced to as a child and which through the years has caused my dad to spontaneously burst into song at the at the mere mention of the word “tradition.” So now I do it too. Of course.)
In my family, holiday traditions just seem to materialize out of thin air. One year something is “new” and the next year it’s “tradition!” And with the rapidly changing dynamics of seven siblings (and lots of cousins) coming and going while we were growing up and the special people that have flowed in and out our lives during different seasons and have been claimed as part of our family, there were (and are) a lot of new things and ideas introduced. And we enjoyed them. So some traditions vanished just as quickly . . . to make room for new ones.
Sometimes the reasons some traditions are embraced and others fall by the way side just boil down to logistics. For instance, when we our family was a little younger and still teaming with energy there was always the traditional pre-meal Thanksgiving Day football game and most everyone joined in. Later, there were pregnant people sitting out, sideline babies who had to be protected from rogue passes, and then a growing team of toddlers afoot. That was a game changer, literally.
So we used to (not that long ago) have a Thanksgiving Day family tradition of playing football 🙂
While I’m never quite sure which of those things that we do are actually “official” traditions, something may seem rather unimportant to my general feeling of having had a well-rounded and satisfying family holiday gathering, until it fails to happen one year and leaves me feeling, well . . . a little lackluster.
Maybe I didn’t hear that one specific carol, make it to a crowded mall, or stuff a turkey. This year it was that I realized I hadn’t had any eggnog. . . and it just felt a tad, well, incomplete.
While I may have my own personal checklist of traditions, I don’t usually mind so much when a “tradition” doesn’t happen in our family gatherings. I’m used to change. I embrace it.
And sometimes something “traditionally” occurs (and so it feels like a tradition) but it doesn’t necessarily bring with it that warm sentiment that traditional traditions bring. So I don’t miss it, but then I sometimes kind of do. Was that confusing enough?
For example, it may be “tradition” that politics or the latest current event will eventually dominate the dinner discussion at almost every family holiday. And that at some point a minimum of two people will dig their heels in about some legislative or societal nuance – and they’ll invariably be seated at opposite ends of a very large table or across the room from each other. Of course. But once in a blue moon it doesn’t happen.
And I don’t mind. But I sort of kinda do.
Sometimes, there’s no crisis. No one is home sick for a check-in or a food run. There isn’t an adrenaline pumping moment when two kiddos collide, nobody throws up, no one’s at odds, nothing breaks, and there’s absolutely zero need for a first-aid kit, and there isn’t the slightest whiff of any type of rumor.
If you thrive on drama like I do this can be a good thing or a bad thing.
But even if it seems like a tradition, I’m not gonna lose sleep because no one’s child caused irreparable property damage. . . especially since I get the award for that this year: As a dozen pumped-full-of-sugar energy forces (i.e. children) took turns on a trampoline on a mild Christmas Day, mine was calmly and deliberately stripping the foam pole covers and littering the ground with the jagged pieces.
I’m also pretty OK with all the children being accounted for. Even if “tradition” says that at some moment during one of our huge family get-togethers, one or more of them won’t be. I can especially do without the adrenaline-pumping moments when it’s my child that’s missing.
So whether these are traditions, they traditionally happen and are perpetuated by our family group, but I certainly don’t feel wistful or “off” when they don’t. At least that’s what I like to say out loud.