Do your traditions have meaning?
Traditions — everybody’s got some.
I’m not talking about habits, like leaving your socks on the floor, or routines, like having a cup of coffee while you read the newspaper.
Chances are you and your loved ones participated in some type of tradition on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or will do so, if your family get-together comes on the first weekend after Christmas when most family members are off work and can attend. That’s the way it will be for us in a couple of days.
Some of the traditions we’ll take part in are the singing of a song or two as someone plays the old upright piano, eating roasted pecans, opening stuffed Christmas stockings and listening to my father read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke. That last one is still my favorite tradition, though we’ve changed it up a little some years. Grandchildren have been given turns reading the story, too. Though it was taken at the home of her great-grandmother on the other side of the family, I have a photo of one of my daughters reading Luke’s account.
She’s in first or second grade, wearing a pink sweatshirt, with her hair in braids and glasses perched on her nose, sitting next to me on the piano bench — in case there was a word she came across that she didn’t know. If you could hear what was going on in the photo, you’d hear only the shuffling of people readjusting in their seats and the soft but confident voice of my daughter as she read, “In those days a decree went out from … don’t help me, Daddy … Caesar … Augustus …”
I can’t think of that without smiling.
When my children were younger, we’d often let each child open one gift on Christmas Eve, saving the rest for Christmas morning. After the ransacking of packages early Christmas Day, I’d cook pancakes and scrambled eggs while the kids’ mom fixed bacon. We’d eat the big breakfast — sharing some with the dogs, of course — and take a nap while Christmas movies played on the TV.
When I was a child, we had another tradition that took place after the Christmas holidays.
Toward the end of January, we’d celebrate Chinese New Year. We didn’t eat Chinese food or dress up in traditional Chinese garb. We don’t have the least bit of Chinese ancestry. But it was a fun opportunity to swap a gift after Christmas — to take a quirky or fun little gift and play a game together as a family as we swapped them. My mom was usually in charge of this and led our game, as I recall.
I don’t remember a single gift I got or gave during those times. But I remember we had a lot of fun.
Traditions should be observed for a reason. Observe them because they bring you joy, because you get to share precious time with loved ones, because you have a weird set of slippers you want to regift.
Let the traditions you participate in have purpose. If they lose their meaning, either rededicate yourself to the meaning or discard the tradition.
My wife and I started a tradition a few years ago, just for us. Every year on Valentine’s Day — or as close to it as we could get — we watched the movie “American Sniper” because it is such a romantic movie. No, we watched it because we went to see it on Valentine’s Day 2014, when it had just been released. We enjoyed the date and the next year decided to watch that movie again. We kept it up for three years, then decided we didn’t want to see such an emotional movie again on a date night.
We haven’t watched it since. You know what we do for Valentine’s Day now? Tell each other we love each other and go eat Mexican food.
Know what we do for most other special occasions, and a lot of non-special occasions? Say, “I love you,” and go eat Mexican food. Keeps the relationship “spicy.”
Whatever you do, whenever you do it, do it because it has meaning. Make everyday special, if you can. It’s a lot easier, I think, if you start the day remembering the God who created it and reading his love letter to us.
We shouldn’t wait until the next Christmas Day to celebrate what my little girl with dirty blonde hair read that day in her great-grandmother’s living room: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Lifestyles editor Brett Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.