TRADITIONS – the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
CUSTOMS – a usage or practice common to many or to a particular place or class or habitual with an individual OR long-established practice considered as unwritten law
It’s hard not to think about traditions this time of year. From Thanksgiving straight through the New Year the season is brimming over with traditions and customs. Whether they are unique to a family, culture or faith, they’re there, large and small.
Even if you don’t think you have them, you have them.
If there’s something you do annually, like coloring eggs on Good Friday, going to a pumpkin patch every fall, or putting up holiday decorations on Black Friday, you have a tradition.
Some of them may be ones passed down from family members over the years, while others may have been created or adapted from another source.
It doesn’t have to be annually, or even tied to a holiday. It could be something you do monthly, or even daily that has become part of who you are.
For example, my Son and I had a little ritual every night before bed when he was little. After reading a book, I would tuck him in and say, ”Good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams” and give him an Eskimo kiss. And, although he’s older, when he’s home from college, I still make sure I give him a kiss on his head and say, ”Good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams, Eskimo, Eskimo” Saying Eskimo, Eskimo replaces the Eskimo kisses.
Funny thing is, my Son looks for this. It has become part of who we are. Hopefully when he has children of his own he will carry this tradition on.
Traditions/customs are the threads that weave the fabric of the family together. No matter how small or simple they may seem, they matter. At their root is the history of who we are.
Understanding them is important, but not always essential because some are just how they make you feel, like my Son and my bedtime ritual.
Religious traditions are some of the most interesting and most certainly need to be understood in order to appreciate them.
Growing up as a Slovak Catholic our family had plenty of traditions tied to faith and heritage. Below are just a few:
• The Blessing of Food Baskets at Easter https://www.thespruceeats.com/easter-food-baskets-blessing-tradition-1136995
• Cirak – Slovak Easter Cheese https://www.thespruceeats.com/slovak-egg-cheese-recipe-for-easter-1137379
• The Stations of the Cross during Lent https://www.britannica.com/topic/Stations-of-the-Cross
• Christmas Eve Meal – including Oplatky, Mushroom Sauerkraut Juice Soup (eaten to bring you good luck in the new year), and Bobalky https://www.catholiccompany.com/content/Oplatki-Christmas-Tradition.cfm
Having a Slovak father and a Pennsylvania German Mother our holidays were packed with traditions. The bulk of which revolved around food.
My fondest memories are of my Mother preparing the traditional foods of the holiday and the smells coming out of the kitchen. To this day certain smells will trigger these images, and make my heart swell.
How my Mother accomplished all she did still astonishes me. I can’t seem to find time to bake cookies at Christmas, yet she made cutout cookies, nutroll, kiffle and bread, in addition to the main course. To say she was amazing is an understatement.
As the years have gone by, with siblings growing up and moving, and my Mom aging and passing in 2015, not all those traditions have survived, but the memories are still there.
Memories I share with my Son in hopes they will not be forgotten.
Some of the traditions my Son and I have are rooted in the ones I grew up with, like coloring eggs on Good Friday, keeping our Christmas tree up till the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th and burning a bayberry candle on Christmas Eve.
But, there are also new traditions I have created with my Son, like a new pair of PJ’s for Christmas Eve, conveniently left by Santa somewhere in the house.
This tradition continues even with my Son turning twenty this month. Of course Santa is not part of the equation anymore, but let’s hope when my Son has children he’ll be hiding PJ’s for them. Finding the perfect pair of PJ’s has been one of my greatest pleasures every year.
The PJ tradition is a borrowed tradition from a former co-worker. Where she got it, I have know idea, but I loved the idea and once started my Son looked forward to tracking down the package with his special PJ’s every Christmas Eve.
Over the years some of our traditions have evolved. When my Son was younger, New Years Eve was pizza, games and snacks till midnight. When my Mother was alive, she would be part of our NYE tradition, and sometimes a sister or nephew or two would join us.
Now however, we head to a late day movie, then dinner, and get home with time to either watch a movie or play a game before the ball drops. Sometimes family or friends will join us, but generally it’s just us.
I thought for sure this year my Son would want to do something with friends, but he said New Years Eve is suppose to be the two of us. I was truly touched by this and certainly hope at least through his college years this stays the same.
It brings me great joy to see as my Son has grown, he has become noticeably more in tune to the traditions of our family and certainly looks forward to them.
My Son is an avid history buff, so the traditions and customs that are tied to our family heritage intrigue him, which is a positive sign they will be carried on, in some way shape or form, even if just by word of mouth.
Keeping traditions/customs alive is critical to saving the core of the family. They not only tell the story of who we are, they show respect and appreciation for the past, and remind us that we are part of a larger community.
In addition, the birth of new traditions woven into existing ones will strengthen the core of the family and ensure the traditions will live on for decades to come.
So, with not only a New Year, but also new decade upon us, I look forward to keeping the fires of old traditions alive, and stoking the ambers of new traditions.
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year, and Decade, filled with family strengthening traditions, old and new.
© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.
Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.
Photos from personal collection
Eskimo Kiss – ©123rf – Eladora
Threads – ©123rf – Andrius Gruzdaitis