What makes holidays, birthdays and any other significant day on your calendar different from the other days of the week? Traditions.
|The Christmas tree can be a beautiful tradition,|
especially when you teach the symbolism
behind it and the various decorations.
This was particularly clear to me when I lived in Korea for two years. Korea had been a Buddhist dominant culture for many centuries. Christianity had only become a significant part of their civilization in the last fifty years or so. To this day, I think only half of the people consider themselves Christian. So as you can imagine, Christmas was not as big a holiday as it was here in the US. Easter was the same way.
The Fourth of July, the fourth Thursday in November and many other holidays were understandably not celebrated because they hold no significance for the Korean people.
They do have a Chinese New Year, and their own Day of Harvest celebration, which were big holidays. Each was complete with special foods prepared just for the occasion. They would have games, songs, and stories they tell on those days. And best of all, they would spend the day with their families. Sound familiar?
Why are Traditions Important?
No matter where you live, traditions play an important part in our lives. For example:
· With all the changes a new college student goes through, their first Thanksgiving or Christmas back is usually really special. It reminds them of years before and reestablishes a familiar element in their world of change and often instability.
· For newlyweds trying to figure out their own traditions, they can decide together what traditions they will keep. It can be a union of the best concepts and practices from both families. They can create their own traditions that are important to them. This is part of establishing their own identity as a new family.
· For more established families, traditions offer an opportunity to teach. Parents can discuss how they observe that holiday and the reasons behind the traditions. Traditions help teach kids about reverence, honor and beliefs.
The traditions I remember best were centered around family. I would run with my dad on Thanksgiving morning. I loved the noisy conversation around our Thanksgiving feast. I cherished singing Christmas songs around the piano with my family. I looked forward to playing games through the night with my family on New Year’s Eve.
These events and many others helped develop strong family ties that continue to be strong today. I want those ties to be equally strong for the next generation, so Catie and I are creating or continuing family centered traditions for our family.
Traditions are a great way to teach our family. When we take time to discuss why we celebrate Thanksgiving and then discuss what we are thankful for, we help teach our kids to be grateful. When we focus our Christmas traditions around Christ, we teach our kids to focus on Christ and not on Santa. When we focus on Christ at Easter, we teach our kids to hope for Salvation because the Tomb was empty.
The opposite is true too. If we center all of our traditions on whimsical ideas, we shouldn’t be surprised when our kids are disappointed by those traditions in the future. (Just wanted to throw that out as food for thought.)
Traditions don’t just apply to holidays. Sabbath observance can be a tradition in a way. In the Ten Commandments, the Lord said to keep the Sabbath holy. The Jews then created a long list of laws and rules for the Sabbath. Nowadays, what we do on the Sabbath each week is largely up to us. For my family growing up, we went to church, spent time together as a family and mostly kept the TV off. We often wore our “Sunday best” all day to help us remember what day it was. We also had a tradition of reading the scriptures and praying together as a family each day. The overriding lesson I learned through all of this was that God and family are so important we set aside time each day and then a whole day each week to spend with them.
Now Catie and I are trying to establish our own traditions. We travel to see family. We tell the story of Pilgrims at Thanksgiving and count our blessings. We focus on Christ and emphasis that Santa’s giving is a symbol of the gifts the wise men brought to the Christ Child. We read the scriptures and pray together every day. We want the traditions we keep to reflect our values.
What traditions do you remember best from your youth? What are your favorite traditions now?
Next week: Christ in Christmas