February 28, 2010
Our Family Traditions
Traditions are like comfort food. We keep going back to them because we like them and we know them. It's comfortable and good. The unknown can be frightening. Going without traditions can be frightening to some people too.
When a son or daughter goes off to the military or into college in another state, they are so busy handling their own affairs and figuring how to survive in their new system, that sometimes it's not possible to follow family traditions. At least not without a lot of trouble. For example, when I went into the Army, I couldn't come home for Thanksgiving the first year. I was in training and my new career had taken me a couple thousand miles away.
But that doesn't mean I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. It means I did not spend Thanksgiving with my family, as it had been for the entire time I was growing up. So I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home with an Army family I hardly knew. It was good, but not the same.
I also remember the first Christmas that I did not come home. That is another family tradition I never would have missed as I was growing up. But again, I was very far away. I know families understand, but for me it was a little disconcerting that there was no snow and no family to share and celebrate with.
I think we have family traditions because it's a coming together of family to celebrate something, or share with each other some meaningful ritual. And I think it's an important part of the cohesiveness of the family. When we celebrate our family birthday's together we are saying to each other, 'you are important to me.' Thanksgiving is like that too. We are sharing a feast together. We are laughing and spending time with each other, and we even cook a special type of food for this tradition.
At some point our family traditions shift from our parents traditions to our own in-house traditions with our friends and our own kids. It's part of the growing up process it seems. In our house now, our family traditions have kind of dissolved or evolved into something different. Both of our children have moved out. So for birthday's we no longer throw a party for our children and their friends, complete with clown or other entertainment and decorations. But we do something else, like send a card, take them out for dinner or something like that. And sometimes the loss of traditions can be a little uncomfortable, like not being able to make spaghetti for dinner because we have no noodles or sauce in our house.
This year we are having a traditional family holiday party in August. To me it doesn't matter whether it's in August or December. At first the idea was uncomfortable to me, a kind of strange idea, because it wasn't going to be around the Christmas season. But the more I thought about it, the more I got the point of family tradition. It's not necessarily about the activity, it's about bringing family together. And to me that's just as good in August as it is in December.
I might wear a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat and flip-flops though. ;-)