Last Saturday eve I grated the potatoes and onions, added the egg, flour, salt and pepper, and plopped this year’s latkes in the waiting hot sunflower oil. The deep sizzle growl of frying food, the gloriously seasonal smell, brought a fundamental comfort and sense that all was right with the world. I started celebrating Hanukkah with my kids when they were tiny. I wanted them to have the language of latkes and lighting candles. I wanted that closeness to be part of their molecules. Now my kids are in their teens and this tradition is a warm part of our family’s expression of enduring love.
Traditions are the scaffolding of identity, the bones of how we experience — and often judge — the world around us. Some, such as my latkes on the first night of Hanukkah, are deliberate. Others come into being by slovenly default, habits no longer imbued with meaning other than the necessity of doing them.
Always at this time of year (is this a tradition?), I reflect on the holiday-actions I do out of choice and those I feel compelled to perform merely because they’re what I’ve always done — or what I think is expected of me . . .
Overeating . . .
Habits get taken for granted.
Intentional traditions have the potential to live in hearts for as long as memory allows. Some of the ones I share with my children are:
* Making the latkes
* Lighting the candles and singing the prayers together
* Buying the most oddly indulgent prepared foods for a blowout on New Year’s Eve
* Putting luminarias out on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year
(luminarias or farolitos are put out in NM on Christmas Eve to welcome the baby Jesus)
* Writing down our wishes for the New Year and burning them, in a pot outside, on New Year’s Eve
I also have a few nascent possibilities that may become personal traditions. Last year, I felt it important to be deliberate on my first Christmas alone in 18 years. I knew I’d miss my kids tremendously. I also knew I’d be spending most Christmases alone from there on out. So I watched foreign movies all day — mostly Bollywood — and topped the night off with Whale Rider. Yes, that might become a tradition; I’ll know this year, if it feels like the right thing to do.
I’m also considering other options . . .
How about you?
What are your happy intentional traditions?
Which defaults might you want to shed?
Are you thinking of any new actions that might transform into welcome traditions in the coming years?
I'd love to shed the additional eating, but that's not just at Christmas, unfortunately. I do hope my wife and I can start to spend more time with out friends and less with grading papers, but that may only be a wish. I'd love it to be a habit someday, though. Hope you and your kids have a happy holiday season!
Thank you for the holiday wishes. Right back at you!
Overeating? Yeah, that's a toughie all year long.
I guess the way to get around grading so many papers is not to require them ;-).
We're breaking with tradition this year to cope with the loss of my Mum. Usually my girls and I would wake and open presents and eat mangoes on the back verandah. Then we'd get dressed up and go to my parents house and have a sort of morning tea, laugh talk and open more presents. Then we'd be back to my house to cook lunch. Eat, sleep and then have neighbours over for more lolling around on the back verandah.
This year we're meeting at for breakfast at nearby lake to go kayaking with my Dad and sister and eat mangoes. We're hoping that doing something active is a little easier than seeing Mum's empty chair.
Mixing things up has already given me a conversation with Dad where he asked me how many prawns I can eat for breakfast. He loves prawns. I've not previously considered them as an option for breakfast. I like that he's creating another opportunity to devour them. I think he'll be eating my share too somehow.
I am so sorry to hear about your mother.
Your former tradition sounds so warm and loving.
Making new traditions can be very powerful. The idea of incorporating physical activity sounds like a real winner; healthy and life affirming. I like that you're keeping some of the same elements though — those mangoes . . .
And prawns for b-fast? I'll have to think about that. They're not that easy to come by in NM.
I know what you mean, but then I would be part of the problem (teachers who never bother to teach anything or assign anything where students can practice and improve) instead of part of the problem (someone who works to make the world a better, more intelligent place, one student at a time).
I'm so sorry about your mother, Catherine. Kayaking and mangoes is a lovely tribute, though.