Traditions passed down to family members through the years are as varied and numerous as the people around us. Traditions are the stories that families write together. How many traditions are there in your family? I’ll bet you would be amazed if you wrote them all down! Which ones stand out to you? Which ones are your favorite? Your least favorite?
Let me tell you about some of our traditions, from childhood to my marriage, to the ones my husband brought into my life, to some of my favorite and least favorite traditions!
But first, let me ask you a question – how have your traditions stayed the same or changed this year? Send me a note, a card or an email, as I would love to hear how things have changed, or have not, for you and your family. And I will now share some of mine with you.
My husband, Sal, and I come from families that have always had traditional dinners for the big holidays, like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is always, and I do mean always, some kind of pasta to begin with along with meatballs and sausage. Now to most people these items, served with a salad, would be enough, or at least that’s what most of our invited guests thought. My dear readers and friends, this was just the beginning! Next came the meat! At Easter it was, and still is, always a ham; Thanksgiving is usually a twenty-pound plus stuffed turkey; and at Christmas a crowned pork roast, a smaller turkey, and sausage. This does not include the side dishes: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, cranberry, general types of salads, and dinner rolls. Just when you were wishing you had worn your elastic, expandable waistband slacks, out come the desserts! Pies, cookies, candy, coffee and tea or wine. Oh Mylanta! Are you full yet? I hope not, because to wash it all down out comes the fruit!
However, the times, along with our traditions took a turn this year, and as 2021 begins, I must ask the obvious: which traditions might change because of the pandemic? Will that make you happy or sad? Or will you turn to God and keep his hope in your heart?
Let’s take a sneak peek at what it could look like, or might not. Let’s take a stroll down holiday tradition lane and put ourselves into “It’s a Wonderful Life” mode.
How have traditions stayed the same or changed for you this year? I noticed that birthdays were celebrated a bit differently; for example, instead of “at home” gatherings they became “drive by”s, which included driving by our children’s homes, beeping our horns, and writing greetings on pieces of cardboards placed on our car windows, all designed to make the recipient smile and laugh. Gifts were then placed at the front door, to be retrieved once the gift bearer got back into their cars, and then our families facetimed for the gift openings. Will this continue or will we get back to being together in our homes? Only God has the answer to that, but we can hope!
Now before I leave out the other holidays, let’s take a look at Valentine’s Day. I don’t see too many traditions changing there as one can still purchase and give flowers and candy; however, it’s the romantic dinner for two that might not look quite the same. We may have to pick up that dinner via drive by, or heaven forbid, cook it ourselves!
What about Easter? We usually have the Easter holiday, with the dinner I described earlier, with about twenty some people gathered around the dining room table. Well, this year we weren’t able to have that gathering, so we pulled out the plastic Easter eggs I usually hide around the house, filled them with goodies, and then drove over to our children’s homes and hid the eggs in their front yards. Once that was accomplished, we called them and mentioned that the Easter Bunny had made a visit and they might want to come outside and check their front yards. We enjoyed the excitement on their faces as they ran around collecting those eggs. However, I truly hope we can go back to our dinner in 2021 and share the day in our traditional way. After all, God created us to be social, as is he, and we long to be together again in that way. And although we don’t have the tradition of new Easter hats, white gloves, and white shoes anymore, we did miss the tradition of gathering for Easter service and were excited at what our church did to help us through not being together as a church family. The Halleluiah chorus was amazing as was the beautiful sign on the front of the church. We hope that sign becomes a tradition from here on out.
But how about Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day? What about our parades, and floats, and honoring our Veterans? What about the traditions of honoring our country? Will there be parades? Or fireworks? Or picnics? I’m pretty sure there will still be mosquitoes! So how about getting our neighborhoods to have the children decorate their bikes, and setting out potluck tables, and having sparklers as it begins to get dark – do you remember those? And thanking God for all he has given us? And praying for our Veterans, especially the ones who are homeless, or injured, or have PTSS and are in our VA hospitals?
Then there is Halloween, and whether you participate or not, you had to be impressed at the ingenious ways people got candy to the trick or treaters in your neighborhood. One neighbor concocted a plastic tube from her upstairs bedroom window and the Halloween candy would slide down into the bucket, or hand, of the child waiting at the other end. Growing up, my siblings and I had fun just wearing those waxed mouth pieces! And my oldest son loved being ET. Those where such simpler days!
Now Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the pandemic took a turn for the worse, yet again. Who did I break the turkey wishbone with last year? Sigh. No one – because no one came over for dinner last year, as we stayed safe and snugged away in our respective homes. The good news is that it didn’t stop my husband or I from purchasing a turkey or making plans to still have our Thanksgiving dinner even if it was just the two of us. After all, God has still blessed us in so many ways, that rather than sit around and mope about what we weren’t able to have or do, we gave thanks for all that he still does for us each and every day.
As I write this, we don’t know what Christmas is going to look like, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it, and we will continue to pray that our world will heal from all the pain and strife, unkindness and sadness we witness. One thing I do know is that we will continue to take pictures in front of the Christmas tree just as we always have! And decorate the house, buy gifts, and make Christmas cookies and candies to pass out to our neighbors this year which is a new tradition. And put out our beautiful Christmas crèche that my brothers and sister purchased for our parents so many years ago. We used to have an open house on Christmas Eve in year’s past, but that too has gone to the wayside as friends have moved away, and families grew larger and kept to their own traditions.
In the meantime, I have been reading a book called In My Father’s House, by Corrie Ten Boom. I don’t know about you, but I always feel that God directs me to a book at a particular moment in time to teach me more of what he wants me to know. In this book this quote resonated with me: “When Jesus takes your hand, He keeps you tight. When Jesus keeps you tight, He leads you through your whole life. When Jesus leads you through your life, He brings you safely home.” I believe that the Lord is giving us a new tradition of more fervent prayer. I believe that he is asking us to return to him in these dark days, and to be thankful for his abundant love for us.
In this continuing time of uncertainty, and of seeing our traditions change in so many ways, I have leaned more and more on reading my Bible and conversing with God. The seeds he has planted in my heart have built a confidence in him, not the world. He has drawn us closer to him, holding us steady, encouraging and meeting us in every moment and phase of the times we are living. It has taught us how precious hugging each other is, and that it is never to late to do something beautiful for the people around you. It has shown us that Jesus can be found in the lowest, darkest depths, and that all who find him are transported to the loftiest, brightest heights. It has made living and giving so much more meaningful. That even in these dark days God is still giving and always remembers us, even when we forget him.
The one thing I have seen in this time of pandemics and unkindness, is what Ann Voskamp says in her book The Broken Way: “We aren’t here to “one up” each other, but to help one another up. It let’s you know that God’s belief in you, is stronger than your belief in him. That like Jesus, when you sacrifice for what you love, you gain more of what you love. That success to God is based on a person’s heart. That when God’s enough, there is grace enough and that we can trust God in all our brokenness. God gives us just the right touch of mistletoe and holly. The truth of the Bible is that God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind, and that you can live, based on the Word of God!”
Maybe this past year was meant to get us out of our bondage. Let us remember these words from the hymn "Jesus, I Come" that Corrie Ten Boom quoted in her book In My Father's House:“Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,Jesus, I come to Thee.Out of the depths of ruin untold,Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,Ever thy glorious face to behold,Jesus, I come to thee.”
May this year be filled with his peace, as he reminds you to return to him. And may you include him in all of your traditions.
About the Author | Pat Cirrincione
No pandemic can keep College Church member Pat Cirrincione from enjoying her family and thinking up creative ways to carry on traditions, all with her trademark good cheer and sense of humor.