A Season of Traditions
Christmas traditions vary depending on what part of the world you’re in. Some are endearing. Christians in China call Christmas Sheng Dan Jieh, meaning “Holy Birth Festival”; they celebrate amid bright, vibrant colors, lights, and evergreens. Others are bizarre. In Slovakia, the senior man of the home takes a spoonful of loksa pudding (made of bread dough, poppy seeds, milk, and sugar or honey) and flings it at the ceiling—on purpose! The amount that sticks is a predictor of the future. The more that sticks, the better. Still others are, in my opinion, downright disgusting. In South Africa, I would avoid this Christmas Day menu item: deep-fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth.
Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve established traditions until one year you try to sway from the norm (usually out of convenience and/or weariness) and your now-grown kids have a meltdown because “how dare you deviate from tradition?!” This is my experience. Yes, we typically put all the holiday decorations up the weekend following Thanksgiving and each room, including the bathroom, exhibits some holiday flare. While that may sound early, I argued it was a lot of work to only be able to enjoy them for a couple weeks—I wanted to maximize my efforts.
Little did I know that my girls referred to our home as a Winter Wonderland to their friends. And last year, when my youngest daughter was asked to write a paper in sociology class on cultural traditions, she wrote about our family’s decorating tradition. Parents often don’t realize the impact we have on our children.
As my girls get older and their significant others begin to join us for the holidays, it’s interesting to see a visitor’s reaction to some of our traditions. My oldest daughter’s boyfriend carried on about how much he enjoyed the liver sausage we had for Christmas-morning breakfast. My daughter later told me in confidence he didn’t really like it; he was simply trying to spare my feelings. I tried not to snicker the following year when I offered him a heaping portion. Eventually he divulged his true tastes.
The reality is that traditions are tightly woven into the fabric of our society, especially within one’s family. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be open to exploring new ideas. In the “Dear Padre” column this issue, Fr. Tom Santa recommends families adopt a new tradition each year in order to add meaning to the season. I love that idea! What will your new tradition be?
—Elizabeth A. Herzing