Saturday, December 6, 2008

The answers stretch back to childhood ...

It's been ages since I've done Sunday Scribblings. I happened to look at it last night and ironically the topic is something I had been thinking about a lot yesterday: TRADITION (in light of Christmas in particular).

The Christmas traditions I know were created by my parents and, as their children, we accepted them as ours and grew into/grew up with them. After all, that's essentially what the word tradition means: an inherited pattern of thought or action. Traditions are passed down from one generation to the next.

Sometimes they are outgrown. Sometimes they fizzle out, change/evolve or are lost in time. Sometimes they are consciously broken and new ones created ... or not.

Christmas Eve is still the part of Christmas I like best (I'm not keen on Christmas Day itself). When I think about why, the answers stretch back to childhood. The excitement of what Christmas Eve meant to me then lingers in my blood, even though those traditions are no longer with us.

On Christmas Eve my parents, my two sisters and I would drive around all afternoon into early night delivering gifts to friends (ours and theirs). This was an exciting highlight for me and my sisters. Not only did we love going for drives, but at every stop we would visit a while, enjoy Christmassy eats and drinks, receive a gift (or gifts) ... before moving on again merrily to the next stop. Often we would all be singing Christmas carols in the car.

Christmas Eve was also the day we used to put up our Christmas tree. In those days it was a fresh tree (Latin name: podocarpus) which Daddy would cut. It had a sweet, piney smell and lasted until the 6th of January when we would take it down.

On Christmas Eve night we would go over to Auntie Pat's house for her traditional Christmas Eve dinner. While grown ups chatted and consumed the fare, we children would be out in the garden with sparklers, playing various games and munching on Christmas snacks before going in for a plate of 'real' food.

Christmas Eve also held the anticipation of Santa's arrival ... something my sisters and I pretended we still believed in (just to get the extra gifts) even after we found out that 'Santa' was our parents.

I was never too fond of Christmas Day however, because it involved waking up very early to go to church. Waking up early wasn't the problem because as children we were up early anyway to see what Santa had brought. It was the going to church part that we didn't like ... sitting through a long drawn out Christmas service when there were gifts at home waiting to be ripped open. We would then come home and have breakfast (pastelles, etc.) ... before opening gifts! This too was difficult ... the prolonged suspense of waiting. Then finally we would gather around the tree and take turns opening the presents. When that was done, we would play with whatever toys we got, read whatever books, etc ... until lunch time, which was usually a big family lunch. Either the cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. would come over to our house or we would all gather at one of theirs. Then after all the eating and playing, back home ...

Every year that was the way it unfolded ...
Yesterday as I thought about 'traditions' it struck me for the first time (believe it or not) that I don't have any Christmas traditions of my own. What is something that I really enjoy doing, sharing, getting excited about and looking forward to about Christmas now ... in the way that I looked forward to Santa, gifts, sparklers, freshly cut trees and going for gift-giving drives as a child? This year in particular I'm feeling that it's time to create/experience/celebrate/share something different and special of my own ... a new tradition.

Maybe raw.


Rinkly Rimes said...

Like yu, I have no Christmas traditions of my own. When I left my family in England I seemed to leave the traditions behind me.

meadysmusings said...

Your parents should have let you open the gifts first thing in the morning! That way you guys may not have dread church as much or just want to rush out and perhaps be more open and engaged there! Even if you just thought bout gong back home to play with your toys again!

I think lots of parents makes kids hate formal religion cause they make it so serious and rigid...In my case I was raised Hindu but we had the gifts and tree and stuff as kids...and I took Diwali more serious in terms of the rituals part cause Hinduism is very ritualistic however you can do all of it at home with your family...and built into to actual religious part is the deeya lighting etc...I guess I always took the pooja seriously and liked and believed in it too though...but guess most kids must hate formal religious things...especially if they are forced into it...we were never forced to go to temple...but grew up with lots of hinduism and pooja and rites in the home altough I never felt forced into it as it was just so much part of my way of life I dont know...and now as an adult I embrace all of it but know that it doesnt matter if it isnt all done right...something I think my parents generation feel more strongly about...

I think on the whole more people might think bout those traditions when they have their own nuclear family set up...dunno how you relate to it in a context if you dont marry or dont have children etc I guess that does put a different spin on it and make you have too look even more within to find your own way of doing things...The question too is are traditions necessary at all in the first place then? Do they have a purpose? Do people normally think bout them or just inherit them?

Thanks bout tagging Sunday Scribblings cause it and the people behind it seem so interesting!

Elspeth said...

Meady, to answer your last questions: I think traditions are necessary to many for the purpose of feeling the safety and familiarity of something that is 'known' and 'predictable'. I don't know if people think about them. I think largely they are inherited and quite often it's about going through motions without really knowing or understanding where it all began, what it means or why they're doing it. If thought about honestly, I wonder how many people would still subscribe to many of the traditions they upkeep and take part in.

And re church ... we did open one or two gifts each before going - but just not ALL. But whether we had opened gifts before or after wouldn't have made much of a difference ... I just didn't like going to church.

Gemma Wiseman said...

Lovely reflective post! Traditions somehow imbue a sense of order, routine, predictability. In some ways, they are like a secure foundation. But then, when they completely annihilate spontaneity and enthusiasm, even generating disappointment, then I am not so sure.

Marja said...

Oh what a great story of past traditions and cute photo's. I try to stick to traditions for my children because of the good things I remembered from my youth
They don't like it as much as I like them too but hopefully they will have their memories as well