Traditions. What traditions did you observe this year? Did you start any new ones? The concept of tradition is really interesting to me. Sometimes, as a culture, we get caught up in the tradition of doing something without questioning why or how it might evolve or change. For some people, traditions are really important, bordering on superstition. Historically, tradition as a concept was about passing on beliefs, objects, values, or customs from one generation to the next. And perhaps it still is, but I'm not sure everyone thinks about it in those terms.
There's a familiarity with traditions; they become embedded in societal rules and expectations, like brides wearing white dresses, which actually didn't become popular until the 19th century when Queen Victoria's wedding portrait of her white lace dress was widely circulated. The color white isn't meant to symbolize virginity or purity in any way, contrary to beliefs otherwise.
There's a pretty big part of me that enjoys bucking tradition. (I had a pirate-themed wedding at a bowling alley for goodness' sake). But I do understand the comfort it brings. I understand feeling as though you're continuing something that people long before you also did but I think there a ways to honor tradition while being yourself. The year my great-grandmother died, I was determined to make her chicken and dumplings for our family's Christmas gathering. Everyone, and especially my father, looked forward to dumplings and I didn't want to disappoint them. I remember in the months before she died, asking her to show me how to make them. She stood with her walker against the counter, shouting out instructions. She smiled at my horror when I was tasked with deboning a chicken. Being a part of the ritual of learning her recipes, of putting them into practice when she was no longer able to, was a sacred experience. So, I understand why meditation and prayer and similar rituals are powerful and comforting.
When I was in middle school, my mom started Christmas morning with Pillsbury orange danishes. Each year, we'd ask her if we could have the danishes for Christmas breakfast. We had them other times, too, but it was particularly part of our Christmas tradition. When my brother was in college and visiting for the holidays, he said something about looking forward to orange danishes. My mother had forgotten about it, so I went to the grocery store on Christmas Eve to get the orange danishes so we'd have them Christmas morning. My brother takes his traditions seriously, and many them seem to revolve around food.
After moving to the Midwest, I used my breaks between semesters to visit my family so there were some Thanksgivings and Christmases that I didn't spend with M. Although lately, we spend Christmas together because the times we didn't made me pretty miserable. But no matter what else is going on, we've always managed to spend July 4th together and watch fireworks. I love fireworks. I love how they make me feel like a little kid. When I worked at Disneyworld there was a firework show every night. And each night, (if I was working) I’d walk outside and stand with my fellow employees and watch the show. Disney fireworks were spectacular explosions of colors, unexpected combinations, designs. There seemed to be a stillness in me as I watched the fireworks. That time in my life was extremely tumultuous and chaotic. But during the firework show things quieted. One of my favorite Disney fireworks experience was during Christmas. The gang of people with whom I lived and worked went to Epcot. Our time together was ending; we were missing our family at the holidays and we had nothing else to do. We had dinner at an Italian place inside Epcot and then stuck around for the fireworks. They were amazing. They spelled Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays in the air. They lit up the night and seemed to fall into the water as they faded. I remember the vibrant colors, shades I never imagined fireworks could be. Deep blues and purples, bright tangerines, greens. I loved the patterns and tried naming each one, starburst, silly swirls, curling wonder, but they came too quickly into the sky and then disappeared.
M and I have watched many fireworks displays throughout the 11 years we've been together. Each year, I look forward to spending that time together, and ultimately no matter what the tradition is, I think the people you share it with are really what makes it.
Holidays seem to give us many traditions. There are Christmas traditions I especially like: watching Charlie Brown's Christmas and drinking hot chocolate, driving around looking at Christmas lights, getting new pajamas, but I've also allowed for holiday traditions (and others) to evolve because when you join someone else's family, you embrace their traditions, too, or create your own.