Tradition. I can almost hear Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof singing this heartwarming song as I reflect on happy memories from my past. They came from family traditions that I am proud to include in my life today. I want my children to have their own set of joyous recollections that will bring smiles to their faces as they remember them in the years ahead.
Traditions are passed down through the generations and some are kept alive while others tend to fall by the wayside. As I sat a couple of months ago writing my Christmas cards, my daughter studying at the same table, it dawned on me that this is a family tradition that will die with me. For while she sees me doing it, I know she will not be inclined to do the same. Sending paper cards through snail mail is a foreign concept to kids her age. And while it saddens me to accept this, I vow to carry on doing it for as long as I am able. It brings my mother back into the room with me and I see her smiling her approval.
My family looks forward to the traditional Christmas turkey dinner with all the trimmings that I make every year in the same way my mother made it. The aroma that fills the house, the flavours exactly replicated, almost convince me that I’m a kid again and back in my childhood home. Traditions invoke a sense of belonging to the past as we do things they way our ancestors did.
As a child, New Year’s Eve brought all my local relatives to my home to enjoy a buffet dinner and welcome in the new year at midnight. We would stand in a circle holding hands and singing Auld Lang Syne, wearing silly hats and blowing horns and then at the stroke of midnight hug and wish each other happy new year. This annual ritual filled us with delight and hope for a good year to come.
Every single person who was there has now passed away but my husband, children and I still carry on this tradition — minus the hats, horns and singing as we struggle to stay awake until midnight and watch the ball drop in Times Square. I can still remember the smiling faces and warm embraces of those New Year’s so long ago when all we had was the kitchen clock to tell us it was midnight.
I’m a firm believer that everyone’s birthday is a special occasion that deserves recognition and that the day of our birth brought a unique and important individual into the world. It’s not just another day. We are here for such a short time that the date of our birth is a wonderful reason to celebrate every year. After all, we won’t be doing it forever.
While we draw on past family traditions, it’s always fun to start new ones. Celebrating a child’s scholastic achievement with a special meal or outing, a mother daughter weekend out of town (unheard of in my day) or a father son hockey game with pizza and popcorn are new traditions that many families incorporate into their lives today.
Stubbornly trying to hold onto family traditions, I feel some of them slipping through my fingers like tiny grains of sand. But I know it is inevitable that not all the ways of the past have a place in the present and the future. Yet, knowing how much they mattered to my ancestors makes them matter all the more to me. After all, to know who we are is to know where we came from.
Judie Amyot — Dollsndogs1@hotmail.com