Holiday traditions connect us closer to our ancestors more than we realize. But why? Is it because they mean something to us personally or because we’ve always done them that way? Or just because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings should we vier off course and do something different?
When I was little (long, long time ago), the tree was always put up on Christmas Eve after I went to bed and we believed that Santa Claus brought the tree with all the presents. Then my brother and I took the tree down on New Year‘s Day. When my daughter was little I did the same thing. She also thought Santa brought the tree with all the presents.
Now she is a parent herself and her family decorates their tree early. She and her husband sip hot cocoa between attaching the ornaments. Plus they leave some ornaments for their son to put on the tree with them the next day. She has begun a Christmas tradition of her own.
Some traditions go way, way back into our family history and the origins have long been forgotten. Being mostly German we have the pickle ornament tradition which supposedly meant that any child finding the pickle ornament got a special present. We never did that one though. I’ve tried to find a vintage pickle ornament for my own tree but they are costly and so far I have not popped for the price.
Italians have a good tradition of seafood on Christmas. Six or seven courses of different fish. Sounds yummy to me.
Holding money in your hand at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s indicated prosperity throughout the year.
Having one parent from Virginia but living in the north I believe we were the only citizens of Philadelphia who ate black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck throughout the new year. Every ethnic group and geographical location has some tradition for the holidays.
One tradition I heard of recently was that of a new wife cutting off the end of the Christmas ham before baking it. When asked why, the answer was, “We always do it that way. It’s tradition.” The young husband asked his mother-in-law “Why cut off the end of the ham?” The same answer “We always do it that way, it’s tradition.” Wanting to know the root of this tradition and its significance, the young husband then asked his wife’s grandmother. Surely she would know how the tradition came about. “Sure,” she said. “My pan was too small for the ham.”
Just a joke of course but you see how some holiday traditions mean something, other mean nothing. Our traditions and our ancestors’ traditions are important to continue and encourage on our younger generations. They remind us of who we are and where we came from. After all, how could I possibly start my new year without my black eyed peas?