By Joleen Steel
“Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!”
Tevye: Fiddler on The Roof
Though we live in a fast-paced, get it now society, the need for rooted tradition remains. In fact, I suggest the desire for traditions is like an ache that can only be soothed when it is tethered to something that brings our soul a sense of home. This is why we engage in seasonal activities like summer camping trips, apple-picking in the autumn, stringing Christmas tree lights in the middle of winter, and planting gardens in the spring. But how do we know which traditions are worth hanging on to and which we should let go? Perhaps the importance of heritage holds the key.
1. Family Heritage
The loveliest traditions are deeply rooted in the heritage of your family. These are the things that everyone will nod their heads and say, "Yes, I remember Grandpa doing that same thing." For my family, it's the Christmas stocking.
Our Christmas stocking is perhaps a bit odd, for it requires a large piece of fruit and unshelled nuts.
Each year as a child, I would rush down to the Christmas tree to find my father's long black dress sock stretched beyond all recognition, sagging from the weight of its contents. Inside the strecthed out sock were small wrapped gifts of a useful nature such as a new toothbrush, soap on a rope, marbles for my brother, and silly putty for me. In the toe was a fresh fragrant grapefruit or orange buried in a pile of pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds.
It was only later in life that I learned that the toe of the stocking was thus packaged to create the appearance of "more." I never shunned the fruit but tore into it happily. I can still taste its tart, sour juice. I still have sweet memories of my father showing me how to use the silver-handled nutcracker to free the hazelnut from it's smooth odd shaped shell.
This tradition sparkles with a feeling of family in my memory. Though our children have store-bought stockings, the tradition of an orange and a layer of walnuts and pecans continues as part of our family heritage. So much so that our grown son has requested the stocking tradition this year, even though we will be celebrating at his home.
Sadly, some family customs just don't stand the test of time. It may be that a traumatic event or bad experience marred the beauty of the custom. It's possible neglect, and the lack of follow-through kept the activity from ever becoming a tradition. Whatever the case, it's never too late to build upon the heritage of past generations. Think about the activities or events that remind you of family and ask yourself what traditions you could build and strengthen for future generations.
2. Godly Heritage
Traditions that are entwined with the story of Jesus bring home the true reason we celebrate Christmas. This is why so many families go to Church on Christmas Eve and set up nativities. There is a risk, however, that these events can become dry and meaningless if they are viewed as duties or obligations. There must be something in them that brings joy to the hearts of your family.
For our family, the Nativity has a small quirk. Instead of merely setting up the Crèche with all it's characters in the same location, we have a custom of placing the wise men, Mary and Joseph, and the Shepherds in different rooms. Each evening before December 25th, we read a portion of the Christmas story and move the Nativity closer to the Crèche. When every character is finally in its place, we celebrate with prayers of thanksgiving and hot cocoa and popcorn.
Going to church on Christmas Eve is, for us, the event that holds the most treasure. Putting on nice clothes and bundling up to go out into the cold sparkly night brings a sense of togetherness. Sitting in church listening to hymns and words of life warms our hearts and plants the seeds of truth in our children's souls. Of course, the youngest ones often nodded off to sleep in our arms while our eldest wiggled and squirmed in the pew. But, building this habit has yielded the most fruit in the lives of our now grown boys. Their love for God has stood through the tests of adolescence and young adulthood. I believe they would say that Christmas without the Nativity or Christmas Eve service would seem lacking in meaning and purpose. These traditions tether their souls not only to home, but also to God.
So consider your Christmas traditions. Are they bursting with memories of family and home? If not, are they worth developing for future generations? Are your traditions rooted in the firm foundations of Christ? Perhaps it is time to build upon what you have begun in order to create Christmas traditions that will become part of your family's heritage.
Share your family's unique Christmas tradition in the comment section below.