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Posts Tagged ‘Traditions’

Well, being the highly spiritual family that we are, the Christmas Eve tradition that I am about to share will surely amaze all who read about it.

This family tradition goes back to my hubby’s family, and specifically, with his dad.

Hubby fondly remembers that on Christmas Eve he and his big brother would go to the grocery store with their dad. They would buy whatever staples the family would need for the Christmas feast to be enjoyed the following day.

But, that was not all! Hubby’s father would also treat his boys to some treats that were not regular purchases for their cash strapped family. Things like potato chips, pop and ice cream.

When hubby and I started a family he was confident that this tradition must go on. And it still does. Around mid afternoon, on December 24th, hubby and the kids load into the family vehicle. They head to our local grocery store … with sugar plums dancing in their heads!

When at the store they pick up whatever list of items that I need to prepare the roast beast the next day. And then they pick up their treats. The only way to define their purchases, is to say that they purchase all of the items that I would almost never buy. Things like sugary cereals, ice cream (but not vanilla … a flavor resembling a favorite chocolate bar), pops (sodas, for the American reader), and candy.

Then they come home, hyped up on the anticipation of eating all of the treats that they have purchased.

There are also huge amounts of eagerness to show their treasures to me, since those are treasures that I would never purchase (a bit of gloating is what is happening).

I love that our kids have this special tradition with their dad. I love that it is something that they only share with him. To me that is worth the nutritional emptiness of what they haveĀ  bought. Spiritual? No. But definitely memory-creating! And the oral stories that get passed down from year to year will continue on into the future lives of our kids, as they grow and form their own families.

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Back when hubby and I were first married (in the stone ages), there was so much to adjust to in coming together into a new life.

Trying to blend two unique lives, experiences and upbringings is no small thing, and not at all easy. When this blending is in the initial stages the others family, habits and rituals seem nothing short of strange, because we humanly always think that our own existence is the ‘normal’ one (thus the others is abnormal).

Recently, when hubby and I were celebrating our anniversary, we were discussing the different things we each had to adjust to when our separate families were joined through our marriage.

One thing that stuck out, as contrasting was how our separate families would celebrate events, occasions and events.

My family celebrates EVERYTHING! Christmas, Easter, birthdays, graduations, moving away, etc., etc., etc. The celebrations would include not just our immediate family, but extended as well. Frequently including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There was always food in abundance, always a cake.

My exposure to my hubby’s family, in terms of celebrations was different (remember these are just my interpretations, not necessarily those of my hubby’s experience growing up). Celebrations also included food. For birthdays the celebrations would take place at a restaurant, including the immediate family. At Christmas a meal was prepared, and shared by a few more family members. Celebrations were smaller and quieter.

From my perspective (due to my ‘other end of the spectrum’ experience) there was no celebration. I remember our first married Christmas, when the gifts under the tree were still unopened when we went to bed on December 25, only to be eventually opened the following day.

From the perspective of my hubby (due to his ‘other end of the spectrum’ experience) there was always an over-the-top celebration, with food and gifts substituting the reason for the celebration. He still does not grasp the need, on Christmas morning, to be up at an “ungodly hour” (a tradition in the home of my childhood) to open gifts, when they will still be there hours later.

Ah, and after the recognition of these differences, and others, comes the hard work of what to keep from our childhood traditions and what to throw away.

And that is what leaving and cleaving is about. When we marry, we leave our childhood, and it’s rituals behind, and we start something new. We look at the heritage we have come from and we, together as husband and wife, decide what to keep, and what to let go of, in an effort to cleave, to become a new ‘one’.

Mark 10:7-8 says, “for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but one flesh.” Our goal should be that over time, the two become one, understanding that together they have created a ‘new normal’, unique to only them.

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One of the blessings of not growing up in a family that went to church, is that I have never felt bound to a certain denomination, or style of worship service, or any of the other hang ups that we can be prone to as groups of people (not to say I have not attained my own hang ups over the years).

I remember clearly a conversation I had once with a teenager from hubby’s youth group, and her response to doing something ‘new’ was “but, we’ve never done it that way.” Yikes! When a teenager, at a time of life of questioning and challenging status quo, is stuck in “but that’s how we always do it” our churches have a problem.

Now, I have to say that I am a bit of a traditionalist. I love forms that have rational behind them. I agree that we need to honor the rites and rituals that are based on Biblical teaching. I do not, though, believe we should do things just because it is our tradition (ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? I am hearing the song “Tradition” in my head right now).

Traditions are not bad, they just need to be authentic.

For instance, there was the story of the handed down method of cooking a roast in one particular family. As the granddaughter was learning from her mother how to properly prepare it, like great grandma used to, the mother instructed her to cut about three inches of the roast off, before placing it in the pan. When the granddaughter asked why, the grandmother said, “it’s tradition.” The granddaughter persisted in wanting to know why. Just then the great grandmother walked into the room, and so, the question was asked, ‘why do we cut the end of the roast off?’ To which the great grandmother replied, ‘I do not know why you cut it off, but I had to because my roasting pan was too small.’ Authentic tradition? Not!

It is so easy to get into habits, that become traditions, that become a part of the fabric of who we are. If who we are is just a people of tradition followers, then our life is formed only by the past. But, if who we are is a people of only what is new, then our life is formed only by the present. To move into the future, we need to bring with us the traditions that are authentic, along with fresh perspectives and a willingness to be open to creating new, equally authentic traditions.

“The most damaging phrase in the language is:
“It’s always been done that way.”
Grace Hopper
(US Navy officer and American computer scientist, known as a pioneer in the field)

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