That I can tell you in one word . . . Tradition!
A recent discussion about a New Year’s get-together ended in tears over the subject of traditions. As far as New Year’s traditions go, my family doesn’t have any. My family never had one particular group of friends we always gathered with, or do the same thing or eat special food. In fact, there aren’t any particularly memorable New Year’s Days. I remember a couple of New Year’s Eves here and there, but it’s just not a very important holiday to my family. My dad doesn’t like football very much, so we don’t even have a tradition of watching it on New Year’s Day.
As I was thinking about that, I wondered what traditions are important to me. I don’t feel like my family was huge on tradition, and (as I have mentioned before) Mike and I are still in the process of developing our traditions, but it’s an area where I don’t exactly know how to start. One of my friends has traditions for everything, and it sort of amazes me.
The easy ones are the big holidays. My mom has four brothers and one sister, and most of them get together on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. We have a big dinner, which I am finally old enough to contribute to, and then we do gifts, which I have finally outgrown. This year I am bringing green bean casserole and chocolate pie. This always used to be at suppertime, but it is now at lunchtime so that some people can go to church services and others to other family celebrations. Christmas Eve to me was always a late night at Grandma’s house and falling asleep while riding home. Christmas morning we weren’t allowed to get up until we could hear Mom and Dad up, and we’d get up and do presents, then clean up and have breakfast. Then we’d spend the day watching movies, relaxing, playing games . . . just chilling out. Our social time was Christmas Eve; our quiet family time was Christmas Day.
Now that Mike is free from the evils of retail, he can come with me to Grandma’s and then we go together to the Christmas Eve service at our church. In past years, we have done our presents on Christmas Eve and then gone to my parents’ house to sleep. Last year we decided to just stay at our place and drive to my parents’ house in the morning, which is what we are also doing this year. We don’t have a set time to see his sister, because Christmas has been such a busy time in the past (see: Retail, Evils of), but this year we are going to see her on the day after Christmas.
Mike and I do an Advent calendar and read together for our Christmas traditions, but we don’t have a lot else. This year we tried to do more to celebrate, like luminaries and Christmas concerts. We baked cookies on Sunday, which I would like to do more in the future. My family didn’t even do Advent; our big thing was putting up our Christmas tree while listening to our Christmas records. That’s not to say that it wasn’t special or meaningful growing up. It just wasn’t emphasized or celebrated quite as much as some people do.
For Thanksgiving, again, we just went to Grandma’s. My mom and I don’t even have a Thanksgiving weekend shopping tradition. Sometimes we’d go out on Black Friday, sometimes not.
Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day – all spent at Grandma’s. The birthday traditions included getting the kind of cake and party you wanted and choosing what we had for dinner (sometimes I chose spaghetti, sometimes chili). But, nothing else. No special plates, no “birthday breakfasts.”
In thinking about it, I feel like I want to weave some meaningful pattern out of all these threads. To me, holidays are time for family and closeness, even if you’re not doing anything in particular. Time to catch up with cousins and aunts and uncles you only see a few times a year. Time to relax.
I want to take it a step further and celebrate holidays and people more, but it’s hard to know where to begin. Mike and I are trying to develop traditions of our own, like our Thanksgiving dinner with our friends. I think that learning how to celebrate like that is really taking me out of myself, and I am excited about trying to take those steps.