Sunday, December 22, 2013 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

Advent 2013



             Until 2008, I was someone who placed tradition above all else when it came to Christmas.  The idea of change was horrifying to me.  Then, between the Christmases of 2008 and 2009, I gained a child and lost both my mother and grandfather. All of a sudden, all Christmas traditions had to change and I had no choice in the matter.  So many of our family traditions revolved around my mother's love of the season and love for entertaining, we had never had a Christmas without Peepa, and I certainly had never had my own child at Christmas. 

My favorite new Christmas traditions have since become the old traditions that have taken on new life since the births of Jacqueline and Phoebe.  We now have little children in the house on Christmas Eve and the magic has returned to Christmas.  Santa has returned to our house and every morning throughout the season Jacqueline looks for where Shelf the Elf may be hiding. (Yes, his name is actually "Shelf.")  I think the excitement in these little girls reminds us of how exciting Christmas really can be.  We lose that excitement as we get older and can get caught up in the hectic season, but when we get to see the return of traditions like Santa coming to visit we are reminded of our own childhood excitement through the experiences of our children. 

Seeing these old traditions through new eyes makes me less apprehensive about possible change in the future.  In the last few years I have realized that we don't have to do things the exact same way every year to keep the real meanings around our traditions.  I am inarguably connected with my mother and grandmother as I feel inspired to bake and make large quantities of food for family entertaining.  And with the addition of the little girls, I can finally understand my mother's and grandmother's inspiration.  However, I certainly cannot do things exactly the way that they did them, though to Jacqueline and Phoebe, the new way will be the "right way."  It took me a while to realize that those important traditions, such as baking and decorating cookies, I had with my mother were important because they were time spent with my mother, not because the actual acts had any special meaning.  I can understand now that the time Jacqueline spends with her mother and Phoebe with her favorite aunt will be the important part of our traditions.

Sometimes, I believe we use the word tradition to mask a fear that we have of change.  Meaningful tradition can very easily be confused with "this is the way we've always done it."  Breaking traditions can test our courage.  Jesus was a tradition-breaker and pushed boundaries by questioning the way things had always been done.  Breaking traditions, whether by choice or not, takes us out of comfort zones and requires that we try something new; it also opens the door for disagreements about what the new tradition might be.  Holding on to traditions links us to our past and those who came before us.  I think it is important for us to review the reasons that we hold on to traditions and make sure they are continuing to carry on new meaning rather than proof that we've become stuck in our ways.

- Emily Richardson-Dion


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