"It's tradition!" Topol's powerful voice hurled those words into the air and audiences enjoying the production, "Fiddler on the Roof," snapped to attention. I am convinced many young minds heard them as a commandment coming down from above. You do not violate family traditions. That's how it is in our family and in families all over the world. Christian and Jewish traditions spill all over one another at this time of the year and I love it. I love our family's traditions even though our children and grandchildren often hold them over our heads.
Traditions get started before you realize it. Do it once and that’s it. Don’t forget to do it next year. And, don’t even think about changing an established tradition. Add a new dish to Christmas Eve dinner and you are greeted with suspicious looks. You start apologizing before the food comes to the table. If it is approved, however, it becomes another “tradition.”
Birds are part of our holiday traditions. Hundreds of bird ornaments cover the bird tree and the grandsons do all the decorating. This year, I was the one complaining about a tradition being changed. Garrett, our oldest grandson and the first to start this annual event would be late getting home from school. I was bummed until Nathan, the youngest, rebelled. “I’m not doing the Bird Tree without Garrett. It’s a tradition!” So we waited until the last minute as we should have.
A kitchen filled with the smells of Christmas baking is another tradition. This one has been carefully and lovingly tampered with over the years. Cameron, our middle grandson, has taken over most of it. He’ll roll and powder sugar coat “melt-in-your-mouth” Russian (or Swedish) teacakes by the dozens. This tradition changed just a little this year. Nathan joined the baking. I hope he understands this is now a tradition and woe to anyone who changes it.
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Throughout this month, I’ve listened to others talk about their family traditions. They range from different ethnic foods to movies they watch every December. The best part of listening to someone talk about family traditions is the tone in their voices. These traditions spark memories that make us smile, laugh out loud, puddle up a bit and surround us with warm feelings for our family.
Traditions remind us of loved ones no longer with us and that lump in the throat also reminds us those memories are treasures to keep and pass on to younger family members. Memories of grandparents and great aunts and uncles who handed down traditions we still observe are part of our Christmas. Many of these memories revolve around the food we serve.
“Does the gravy need more salt?” “Don’t let the potato sausage boil too hard and split!” “Are you sure you’ve peeled enough potatoes?” I can hear my mother, my aunts and my grandmother all in the kitchen at the same time. Now, it’s my sisters, my daughter, my niece and even some of the “men folks.”
I hope my grandsons marry good cooks with lots of traditions in their families because you always have room for more. Just ask the younger generation who love getting them started. Have a wonderful time during this holiday season and enjoy your own special traditions.
Write to Joan Carson, PO Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply.