I remember quite vividly watching my sister perform in our high school's version of "Fiddler on the Roof." Her classmate who played Tevye was really good; his singing of the song "Tradition" was so memorable that my sister and I often sing it to one another, especially around the holidays. Much as I love that memory, I think one of the things that stresses us out so much during this time of year is our relentless pursuit to follow traditions of yesteryear as well as make new annual rituals for the next generation.
I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and know that if I didn't make the Christmas parade this year or forgot to get the photo with Santa, it's o.k. because at the heart of these traditions is spending time with my family and friends. I try to focus on the moments we are together and not so much about having the perfect holiday card or outfit for that photo with Santa. Some of the greatest memories are made when perfection isn't achieved - such as an entire table of food collapsing when Steve and I hosted our first New Year's Eve party. These are the cherished moments we laugh about - and cry a little about too...I miss that Blue Willow serving platter!
I have come to realize that it's o.k. for traditions to come and go - that's part of discovering new ways to celebrate together. My mom was and still is a "hostess with the mostess." She, along with some close family friends, hosted a large holiday party every year during my childhood and young adulthood. Over the years, we had ornament and small gift exchanges and the food served had its own traditional requirements too. There would be a revolt if Uncle John didn't make his famous wings or my mom's pierogies were nowhere to be found. I have all the recipes for these holiday culinary delights, but I know that I'll never be able to truly re-create the tastes of those yummy creations.
As time passed, sadly some of our family friends died, the kids got older and started our own families; a few of us moved pretty far away. We weren't able to sustain the annual party anymore. Sure, I miss having that party, but it was hard for the second generation to carry it forward. Since my birthday is December 28th, I was able to get people together for my 40th birthday a few years ago, it was fun to revive the tradition. I think that's what made it extra special, to share memories of the past. Who knows, maybe we'll do it again for my 50th!
Then, there are the traditions that just endure (whether we were fully on board with it or not). My sister's husband must have tacos and orange Jell-O on Christmas Eve (it was the only way his mom could calm him and his brother down and head to bed when they were kids). Over the years, my sister has come to appreciate the tradition and now their kids demand the same. Me, well, I have to tolerate this plastic Santa that gets premiere billing right in the heart of our TV room. Does it match the holiday decorating aesthetic I strive for? No. But, this old Santa gives Steve so much joy year after year and now, he's passed the joke along to his kids. And hearing that laughter is the best tradition of them all.