Beginning with the box of Christmas decorations that you saved to use again, each action that you choose year after year begins forming your family’s tradition for Christmas. Tradition is simply what we do. Doing it over and over again causes memories to form that bring thoughts of home and the warmth of the season into our hearts.
When our girls were born, Hallmark produced ornaments for baby’s first Christmas. We purchased one and as they grew old enough to hear the story, I sat each of them on my lap to explain how special and important they were to our family. The last year I did this, those long legs were touching the floor. Even outgrowing dear old dad didn’t change how special and important they were to our family!
Every family chooses whether to open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning. I remember pressuring our parents to let us open at least one present on Christmas Eve only to be told that we wait for Christmas morning. Whichever you choose, how we do it is how it is remembered. It’s tradition.
Christmas morning begins with an old scratchy recording of a music box playing Jingle Bells. Everyone knows that it’s time to gather around the tree and open presents. The first time we had Christmas in our daughter’s home, the recording came out and Christmas began. The tradition started again in a new place!
In addition to reminding us how we do it, traditions give us a sense of ownership and a personal touch during an internationally recognized holiday. While gifts are universal, the way we choose to open gifts in our home is our way, the way we do it. It’s tradition.
Traditions change through the years. Necessity sometimes requires new ways to celebrate. If divorce divides the family, everyone has to share the time. The way we always do it may have to adjust to accommodate an additional household in the mix. Rather than thinking of it as destroying our traditions, try to think of it as expanding them.
Expanding our traditions also includes the addition of a new set of inlaws and their traditions. The music box recording was one of my wife’s family traditions that came into our new home. Ornaments may follow the newly married children into a new family box but they aren’t lost, just expanding into a new home and new set of traditions.
As you prepare the snacks to leave for Santa and mix the drinks your family will enjoy while presents are opened, remember that each of these traditions conveys meaning and belonging. They help define who we are and how we do things. They aren’t right or wrong, just the ways that endured the years.
Excuse me while I locate that recording. It’s on a CD now instead of a cassette tape as we enjoyed it or an LP album as my wife originally enjoyed it. But the song endures. Merry Christmas everybody.