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The true meaning of holiday traditions

December 15, 2011

December has become a very special time for me. Yes, there’s Christmas, which is wonderful. But for me, it is also a special time because it is when my daughter was born.

I laugh when I think back two years ago. I was big, uncomfortable, exhausted and ready to get that baby OUT!. At the same time, I was terrified that I wouldn’t know what to do with her when she did come out.

As the holiday and my December due date grew closer, I grew more exhausted and more frustrated. My husband, sweet and thoughtful as he is, decided that we weren’t going to go through the trouble for a Christmas tree. We always pick out a live tree, and he figured with a newborn baby at home, the last thing we would have time for is cleaning up a tree and taking down decorations.

When he casually mentioned this decision to me, I lost  it. I lost it in the way only 9-month-pregnant women can lose it: tears, sobbing, major guilt trip. But, he stood firm.

I couldn’t express at that time why the tree was so important to me. I just knew that it was, even if it made no logical sense. And now, two years later it is still important. But, why?

It’s because traditions mean something, and holidays are a good time to remind us of that. It’s not about what we do or buy. It’s about the shared experience that connects us to one another.

Traditions are one way to define what is important to us and who we are together. As a society, we spend so much time defining ourselves as individuals that often we lose our identities as families and communities.

I believe it is my responsibility to foster in my child a sense of belonging. As she begins to discover who she is and who she will become, she will also get to know herself in the context of her family.

Whether it is decorating Christmas cookies, singing carols or scouting the neighborhood for the best light decorations, she is learning about her world. And as we sing together, laugh together, anticipate the season together, we are sharing little moments of joy. Little moments that make big memories.

These shared memories of joy are the color with which we paint our family portrait. Year after year, our portrait becomes clearer and the intricate details define our life together.

It’s not about a tree; it’s about us, sharing life together.

We want to hear from you. What are your family’s favorite holiday traditions?