Holidays are filled with traditions. They populate our seasons of remembrances. They may be around the stories that granddad spins each Christmas. They may be foods we eat that represent the season. They may be decorations, ornaments, songs, games. Somehow, they come to be what we remember and look forward to.
And traditions are important for they give us a sense of comfort and safety. They help us define what the holiday means. They remind us of our connection to communities and they bind us to people of the past. They help us know that there is some continuity in life and that we can count on somethings to be constant.
But, traditons haven't always been what they are. They started somewhere, sometime, with someone. Most of the time we don't remember when they started. They have just always been present.
But, life that moves us forward erases some of our practices. Family members move away. Children grow up and are not enchanted with the same things. People die and are represented by empty chairs or are felt in the empty spaces of our hearts. People make new commitments to new people and all of a sudden there are more people to include in family gatherings. Things that "we have always done" no longer seem to be possible.
So, remembering that traditions were once not present lures us forward to trying new things. The absence of some of the people or practices leaves empty space for interesting experiments. Some of them will stick and we will do them again (isn't a traditon something that we did more than once?). Others will not be remembered and we will try something new.
I miss some of the things that I used to do at holiday times when my children were growing up, but to discover joy in my life during these days, I grieve what is no longer and embrace the excitement of trying new things with those who share my days and my geographical space. And I find a quiet and contented joy in the creation of new habits and patterns of celebration.