When you hear the word "tradition", what comes to mind first? A childhood memory? A specific food or craft? A yearly outing with the same people? It could be any number of things depending on your heritage, upbringing, or religion. Did you know that traditions can be started at any time of life? Just because you didn't grow up in a family where traditions were passed down, does not mean that you cannot begin your own right now - by yourself, with your spouse and/or kids, with nieces or nephews, or even with your friends.
It's impossible for me to talk about traditions without admitting that I always think of it as "TRA-DI-TION!" a la Fiddler on the Roof. Admit it, you're singing the song in your head now - it's okay. According to Mr. Webster, tradition is defined as the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction. When I think of specific family traditions from my childhood, they include memories of homemade holiday butter cookies, Christmas stockings, the older-than-me Nativity set, and listening to my dad read the story of Christ's birth on Christmas morning.
Before Peter and I were even married, we began a tradition that we continue to this day - getting our Christmas tree as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away. That very first year we actually went out on Thanksgiving night, but ever since then (as long as we were in the States), we have a tradition out of going to a local Choose-and-Cut Christmas tree farm the day after Thanksgiving. This year we're going to have to put it off until Saturday as I'm scheduled to work that Friday, but the whole tradition of getting the tree on Thanksgiving week-end remains the same. A few years ago, we started dragging my parents along with us, and now it's a yearly event - lots of fun memories!
One of the traditions that carried over from my childhood upbringing was the packing of shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. In fact, one of my first posts on this blog was about how to inexpensively pack a shoebox. If you live under a rock and have never heard about OCC before, then by all means, please check out their website to find out more - it's not too late to pack your shoebox for this Christmas! It's a great way to get the season started off on the right foot - to think of giving to those who have nothing instead of focusing on what you (or the kids in your life) are hoping to get. My mom has been a huge fan of the shoebox program since it first started, and she was quick to get me involved as a child. I remember going all over Wal-Mart collecting items for the boxes, and then later on, using my savings to fill my own shoebox. It was a very profound childhood experience to fill a box for a girl my age who had nothing. Mom drilled it into me so well that Peter and I have continued to fill shoe boxes throughout our marriage, and it's a tradition that I look forward to carrying on in the future. National collection week is November 14-21!
Getting back to the title of the post, Christmas stockings are one of those things you either grow up with, or you don't. My family was always big into the whole stocking stuffer thing, while Peter didn't grow up with them at all. Once he came into the family, he has slowly warmed to the idea until now, his stocking stuffers for me are what I look forward to the most each year. You don't have to spend a lot of money to fill a stocking - in fact, sometimes the cheapest gifts are the most fun (I still remember getting Silly Putty from my brother). Peter has created his own tradition of giving me a new pair of socks each year, and I always look forward to seeing what he's selected - Christmas-themed, warm and fuzzy, or something wonderfully practical. Even when we spent Christmas in the tropics, we took stockings with us as a reminder of home and filled them with items we purchased locally (and a few tiny surprises that we packed for each other on the sly).
As I mentioned before, traditions aren't always handed down from one generation to the next. One of the earliest traditions that Peter and I started after we were married is our practice of opening one gift a week leading up to Christmas day. For example, since Christmas falls on Sunday this year, we'll open our first gift on December 4th and then another one each week until we arrive at Christmas. It not only stretches out the holiday, but it allows us time to really enjoy each gift without being overwhelmed by everything in one day. Just last week, we were listening to Bing Crosby sing "Round & Round the Christmas Tree" (because we like to start the Christmas music a bit early) and Peter made the comment that we should revive an old tradition that Bing referenced in the song - Christmas Eve dinner with friends and family. I loved the idea and we're already thinking about who to invite and what we're going to fix (a turkey for sure). See what I mean? It's never too late to renew or invent family traditions!
Now that you've heard about some of our past, present, and future traditions, it's time to share your own! What traditions did your family hand down? Is there something special that you do each year or for a certain holiday? Have you started any new traditions? I'd love to hear about them!