I love traditional celebrations – the ones that have been observed year after year. I think they help keep us grounded and in touch with our roots. On the other hand, when the observation of a tradition becomes more important than the original purpose, it’s time to move on. A tradition should not be celebrated simply because we’ve always done it, but because it has meaning in the context of our lives.
For many years when all of us were living at home, our Christmas Eves were spent preparing for Christmas Day. Making cookies for Santa, setting the table for Christmas dinner and hanging stockings in anticipation of a late night visit. Opening gifts on Christmas morning and a big family dinner were our traditions.
But as my brothers and sisters married and had families of their own, it got more complicated. Although we still had a big Christmas dinner, there were often a few missing who were expected other places. The big celebration at home with Mama evolved into a Christmas Eve party when we all gathered to open gifts, sing carols and enjoy a different kind of meal than we had ever had at our house. Little pimento cheese and tuna salad finger sandwiches with the crust cut off, fresh vegetables, chips, assorted cookies, cakes and pies. And always, Mama’s hot spice tea, that we inexplicably called Russian Tea.
That Christmas Eve party became a tradition that was just as beloved as what we had done for many years before, because it worked better for our family. It is a celebration of the evolution of our family because it works for us. That’s what family tradition is really about.