I was raised to respect traditions. I went through my childhood relishing in the fact that while the world around me was changing at a rapid, sometimes scary pace, some things in life would always stay the same. Some things were so important, they always took precedent over any other in my life. You could always depend on their very essence and the spirit of thought behind them.
It was a comforting thought to hold close. Precious traditions to look forward to were a safe harbor I could count on regardless of circumstance or location. While the manner or details of their execution might by necessity vary a bit in form from year to year, the basic tenant of their existence never changed nor wavered.
As a result, I brought up my children with the same value system from my youth.
Even as parents around me found themselves too busy or too “sophisticated” to bother with silly things like building memories, a few of us still insisted on keeping to the things we knew were important. Traditions like ensuring Santa always had homemade cookies waiting for him on Christmas Eve or throwing a special birthday party at home for our kids complete with games and/or crafts and handmade goodie bags filled with treasures where much thought had been given to their selection, started to become few and far between in modern day families. It was easier to let Chucky Cheese or the latest mini-golf adventure park handle all the messy “details” of marking the birth of your child rather than being bothered with all that planning yourself. Family time was quickly being relegated to whatever bits and pieces that could be crammed in around all the REALLY important stuff. You know the ones, important things like working 80 hours or more a week for that 3rd or 4th car..for the 4 vacations a year or 2nd little getaway home.
Traditions got lost along the way in the rush to acquire more and more “stuff”. We sacrificed what we thought were non-consequential little bits of our lives along the way so that we could hurry up and wait for all the “good stuff” to get here. The only problem with that theory was, those “little bits” start to add up to a lot of time and missed opportunities we can never get back with those around us. Hey, it was all for the greater good though..right?
Just take a long look around at what is happening in our country and in the world today. Every day on the news there is yet another tragic story of a person or family suffering directly and personally, or indirectly through the actions of a stranger, from the effect that loss of family and tradition has had on society. People are slipping through the cracks. We seem to have lost our way in the rush to “improve” or “re-invent” something that didn’t need replacing in the first place.
Traditions matter. To have something that can be counted on in some form or another from year to year, makes a huge difference in how we handle life’s little (or big) ups and downs. We all need a support system or something to depend on as being solid…a foundation to quiet our souls when we need to believe in something.
That’s what a tradition is for. Whether it be something silly that only you or your loved ones count as important or something as vital as a group we identify with and celebrate our mutual beliefs, traditions give us a place in ourselves that can never be erased. They provide a warm secret spot within our thoughts where we can retreat to anytime the world seems to be collapsing around us.
Traditions don’t have to be centered on religious beliefs. It’s not a matter of money. Special traditions don’t have to cost a penny, they can be from the heart. They don’t have to be grand gestures. They do however, have to be consistent..even in times of strife.
So, even though traditions have to be changed a bit this year at my house, they will be celebrated nonetheless. I’ll pull out my grandmother’s recipe for a traditional heavy lemon pound cake and make it to celebrate my Dad’s birthday, simply because it’s what he asked for. I don’t care about the current trend of low-fat, low taste healthy, only eat what’s good for us, that is in vogue. Tomorrow, as part of an Easter celebration, we’ll enjoy without guilt, a taste from our past and smile. In that way, my Grandmother (Nana) will be with us as well. I have no doubt that stories of past Easter dinners at her house will abound for my children to hear yet again and pass along one day to their children. Tradition will continue.
I’ll put together Easter baskets with special treats or little gifts for my kids to find when they wake tomorrow morning. I have never bought a pre-made pre-put-together store bought basket in my life. No matter that they are going to be 23, 20 and 14 this year, they will be almost as excited as when they were little to see whatever has been “left” for them by a Giant Bunny that has hopped by overnight. Forget the fact that they all stay up most of the night and that Mom in turn, will have to have little if any sleep in order to make sure a surprise is created..it’s worth it. Their Grandmother (my mom), even though she’s not in good health, will still have her house filled with special decorations and more treats for her grown children and for the grandchildren. Tradition will live on and be something they carry on with their families one day because they recognize the importance of something to count on, even if it’s silly.
To start the day I consider Holy, I’ll also fall back to my upbringing. Even though I rarely attend church regularly anymore, the convictions and beliefs I grew up with are strong within me and are passed on to my family. There are years I will attend a sunrise Church service at the mountain, other years I feel the need to be amongst a congregation of those I know and respect, and some years I spend the morning in quiet reflection and remembrance of what I believe. Whatever form the day takes, it comforts me to know that some things never change, in spite of the turmoil in the world around me. I don’t know the answers as to why things happen the way they do, many times to those most innocent or undeserving of the chaos, but I have an abiding faith that there is a reason for every event that happens and that I don’t have to know the reason. Tradition of spirit and of your own soul is perhaps the most precious gift of all to nurture and not neglect.
So, Easter ain’t what it used to be anymore for many of us. It makes me sad to see so many traditions falling by the wayside in society. The loss of family time as stores remain open in the name of political correctness or convenience is troubling. The cost to the family from the increasing isolation and loss of human contact in favor of digital ways of interacting…the loss of our very humanity in a way as a result, is a shame and dangerous for some of those amongst us. Especially for ones with dangerous violent tendencies, such isolation has shown just in the past month with so many tragic shootings, what happens when people cut themselves off from others or when we don’t want to “interfere” in someone else’s business.
Traditions are important. So go hide an egg or two, have a meal with your family or a neighbor that is alone, go to church..heck go to a baseball game. Start your own tradition if you didn’t grow up with one and cherish it from this point forward. Give yourself and those around you a glimmer of something to look forward to in years to come.
Give the gift of something solid to hold on to, of something to count on, to yourself. In these uncertain times, it’s vital…whether we realize it or not.
Recognize the value of small things around you. Small things are the ones that make the most difference to us all.