Embracing Traditions

40617_bigHave you ever given much thought to traditions?  Do you have any? Where did they come from? Have they become more of an obligation than a joyful celebration?  By definition, a tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or significance with origins in the past. They can be cultural, religious, or holiday.

With some extra time off during Holy Week, I worked hard to space out my time this year so that I wouldn’t feel rushed through the season.  I had to put some extra thought into planning things out and scheduling them so that our time could really be enjoyed.  This meant managing my time and making the tough decision to let some things go.

For me, traditions are a place of comfort.  We simply continue to do the same thing, with the same people, at the same time…you get the idea.  Letting go of things is tough.  It’s kind of like not being able to throw things out in your home that you no longer use, but they still hold a special memory. However, if you continue to hold onto everything, there’s no room for new things.  Sometimes this is true of items, people, and yes, even our beloved traditions.

I’ve always had difficulty with this and it takes some real thought, discussion and maturity to find the balance between holding onto the things of the past and opening the door to what lies ahead.

Many years ago, I left my family’s Christmas Eve traditions and moved on to celebrate with my husband’s family.  Oh, I remember how this initially tore at my heart. I’ve spent more than half my life celebrating Christmas Eve with my husband’s family.  Coming from a small family, it was a treat for me to walk into their traditional Italian Christmas Eve celebration with lots of food, great smells filling the air, and the screeching of excited children. With six children, you can imagine how this “event” grew over the years with spouses, boy/girlfriends, and of course the babies….and yes, even the babies’ babies.  But the day came when we had to face the reality that this tradition had to be re-evaluated.  My husband did everything in his power to keep it going for a while, but we realized that is was no longer accommodating others’ traveling and extended family obligations, time constraints, etc.  Family dynamics change and sometimes, as painful as it is, so must our traditions.

As my children grow, I find myself wanting to pass along memories, stories and recipes from their great-grandparents and grandparents more than ever.  To me, it’s a way of holding onto a piece of the past; a moment in time when life was simpler, less complicated; a way to recall the past through the eyes of the little girl who experience it, or the young mother who lived it.

I’ve always tried to incorporate both my husband’s Italian traditions and my Slovak traditions.  Yes, this takes on a whole new meaning to being creative.  So for my husband’s Italian Christmas Eve, we modify the feast of the seven fishes, and add in my family’s Oplatek (a traditional Slovak Christmas Wafer used to break bread together).  We recall the stories of our childhood until the day that our family grows and we open our home and heart to new people, new stories and new traditions.

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