Did you know that the word "tradition" comes from the Latin "tradere"; to transmit, or give for safekeeping? Thank you Wikepedia for that information!
This, of all times of the year is bound up in tradition. Who can't look back on their childhood and remember, not just that there were Christmases, but the particular way in which it was done; the little rituals that you could count on?
When our children were growing up, they knew that they would have one gift on their bed, along with a Christmas stocking when they woke up on Christmas morning. I think we hoped (vainly) that this would buy us a few more minutes in bed!
As new families form they make their own traditions based on thier values. One young mom with two preschoolers has begun a tradition of sharing their family Christmas with friends who would otherwise be alone. How true to the spirit of Christmas to shift the focus from giving things, to giving the gift of welcome.
And sometimes we hold onto traditions that don't seem to make sense because they matter to someone. A coworker told me that his teen aged children insist that their Christmas tree be cut from the lot up north where they have cut them for years. He ruefully shook his head with a smile, knowing that he would have to make the trip this weekend even though it would be much easier to put up an artificial tree or cheaper to buy a real one locally.
But it isn't that rituals and traditions can't be adapted or changed. This year two other friends and I have renegotiated our Christmas traditions to better suit our circumstances. The fact that there were "negotiations," speaks to their importance to us.
Today we celebrated St. Nicholas' Day with our six grandchildren. They call it, "Dutch Christmas"; a way of including part of our heritage in our celebrations. I made sugar cookie dough and the children rolled it out and cut out cookies with the same cookie cutters their parents used when they were children. Each year they decorate them with greater skill; more sugar lands on the cookies and less on the floor!
It all had to be fit in today between hockey games and a Christmas play rehearsal, a window of a few hours in the afternoon of a busy day. Sue, our daughter-in-law, collapsed into a chair when she arrived. "The children have been looking forward to this for weeks," she said, "But I just kept telling myself, "If I can just get through Saturday!"
"Well, it's almost over!" I said.
That was when a little voice from the next room said, "But I don't want it to be over."
And if I needed to know, I knew then it was worth it; the making of dough at midnight after a week of caroling and parties; to have "kept safe" for another year, something precious to the heart of a child.