Christmas is a time of year during which we think about traditions. It could be a Christmas movie favorite. It could be a particular meal. It could be the procedure around getting the Christmas tree as I described our family version of tree cutting in “Can we at least drive it around the block?” So what makes these traditions so important?
As we age, we remember certain traditions and we carry them with us. But as in all things, they can’t always be accurately repeated. Sometimes the reason is cultural. Sometimes technology creates replacements. Case in point. Putting up outside lights was an arduous task especially in the northern climes, where if we weren’t on top of our game, we were putting them up in a foot of snow and flesh freezing cold. I will admit to being guilty of this way too often. With technology has come quite impressive displays and often without any lights at all. But just for the sake of tradition, do you remember those big bulb lights with the multiple colors? I do and I don’t remember them failing in multiple strings immediately after you finally got them up. I currently have a beautiful half lit display myself.
The point is that traditions evolve as we age and attempt to pass them down to our children. What matters is that the most important part of a tradition is not the memory that surrounds it, but the emotion it evokes. The tradition can evolve over time. The emotion it evokes is what endears. That emotion is what we try to recreate.
In the family of my youth, my favorite tradition was watching “A Christmas Carol” on Christmas Eve with my dad and my siblings. That tradition came into my own family but had evolved over time. It began with setting up the video, something we couldn’t do when I was growing up, we had to wait for the live version to come on, and then making a big bowl of popcorn. I and my daughters would settle into our big couch and watch the movie. My two daughters would never make it through the whole movie with out falling asleep but they would always awake just in time to chime in with Tiny Tim shouting out, “God bless us everyone.” As my children aged, the movie night was replaced with the family date night. We would get dressed to the nines, go out to dinner somewhere fancy and then down to the Overture to see the play “A Christmas Carol”. My daughters would literally recite the lines having seen the play year after year. After the play came pictures, my wife’s tradition, and then a late night dessert.
The tradition was evolving but the emotion was intact through all of the changes. It was family night together, bonding or maybe re-bonding, and feeling the spirit of the season through the closeness of family. Two little girls falling asleep on daddy’s shoulders created the same emotion years later as two adult daughters still insisting on the same family togetherness in a grown up version of that movie night. The movie was replaced by the play, the popcorn by dinner out and the innocence of two little girls by the grown up sophistication of two beautiful young women.
This Christmas, I hope that you will enjoy or maybe recreate a tradition from your past. Don’t try to repeat the physical process, only work to tap into the emotion the original tradition evoked. Let the emotion wrap itself around you and let it help you find the innocence and excitement of the Christmas season.
And so, in the innocence of Tiny Tim, “God Bless us Everyone.”
And from me and my family, Merry Christmas 2017.