Traditions have always sort of come and gone in my family. We like things in spurts of three, and five years.
Sushi and games every Christmas Eve? Yeah, that started in 2012, but fondue started to creep in last year. Attending Midnight Mass? Not since we were kids. Even the horserace games and afternoons at the rink are distant, cherished memories abandoned due to time, age and distance.
There’s no 100-year-old ceremonial toast, midnight song or blessing of the turkey that I can pass along to my son, but looking back into my deepest memories from the holidays, the excitement, wonder and head-to-toe joy of those few special days in December is palpable. Even as an adult, that feeling alone is a tradition.
As I reflect, patterns start to emerge and those quiet unspoken habits and meals become traditions in their own right. The culinary throwbacks of jellied salad and cheese ball, the mingling under the fluorescent lights of our uncle’s kitchen, the common room at Grandma’s apartment or the buffet-style meal with no real beginning or end and no kids table all start to appear. Even familiar jokes, stories of gifts gone bad and reminiscing over family members we’ve lost are part of the annual buzz and excitement of Christmas.
We don’t acknowledge these as traditions but they’re there. They’re quiet and unassuming but somehow they start to shine light on the whole familial experience and even more traditions start to appear.
The Scrabble games, the crackling fireplace (and fireplace channel), mimosas with breakfast, the icy cold bottle of Jägermeister and creamy liqueurs, the ice cream pail filled with salty nuts and bolts and the wrapped gifts in stockings, carefully laid out for everyone, no matter your age.
Now I realize that in the eyes of my young son, everything we do during the holidays will be the “way it’s always been done” and we’re creating new family traditions each and every year, no matter if they stick around for one, three or 30 years.
The family traditions will ebb and flow but it’s important to pay attention to the small stuff because no matter how small and insignificant these habits may seem, we’ve all got plenty of traditions to pass down and celebrate.
Want to start a family tradition? Consider these:
- Create an annual Christmas ornament
- Take a family photo
- Attend a holiday-themed performance like the Nutcracker at the Cohn or a play at the Neptune
- Christmas crackers are always a favourite
- Donate your time to a charity in need