By Jay Timms : My mom loves Christmas. Every year it seems there is more stuff that she brings out to decorate her house than the last. They have one room in their house that is probably 20 feet high. About 10 years ago, she announced one Christmas that she had bought a beautiful artificial tree at a discount and needed our help to set it up in her 20-foot high room. So, I planned on coming over one Saturday morning to spend an hour helping her to get it up. It is totally my fault that I didn’t clarify how big the tree was, but it didn’t take one hour. It didn’t take half the day. It actually took about 2 days to put this crazy thing up. It was 16 feet high, and every fake branch had to be attached one by one by hand. Because I have the “honor” of being the tallest in the family, I get to be the one who stands on my tippie-toes on the ladder trying to get the very top on, and then to plant the angel which has been passed down from my grandparents onto the top of this monster without falling to a certain death. Every year, it is a procession of dozens of boxes that are all carefully marked with the branch size being lifted up the stairs from the basement to the front hall, opening each one and carefully bending the branches out, putting them on, then lights, decorations, and finally the angel. 3 weeks later, it is everything in reverse. And again, I am conscripted to help with the take down.
And then something happened. A couple of years ago, my parents were going to be out of town for Christmas and mom decided not to put up the tree. I didn’t get the call to come and heave the boxes up the stairs, sneeze from all the dust, and fight to get the stupid angel on top. And you know what? I missed it. I missed it because that had become the tradition that signaled the beginning of the Christmas season for us. Over the years, we have made many traditions around this holiday. Making handmade chocolates with my mom, dropping off anonymous packages to families in need, opening the gift with our matching Christmas pajamas the night before Christmas, and listening to our favorite Christmas CD, “The Forgotten Carols”. Each time that we miss one of those traditions, it is a bit of a let down and an, “Aw. I wish we would have done that again this year.”
Although some of our readers will not be celebrating Christmas as a holiday in December, I want to stress the importance of traditions regardless of your background or religious affiliations, and regardless what time of year it is. Traditions are something quite special in that they help to connect us to our family and our heritage in a way that few other activities can. Regardless of where you came from, what you believe, or who you hope to become, traditions have a way of helping us feel secure in who we are. As Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word…Tradition! And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is…”. Traditions help us to fulfill one of the basic needs that we as humans have which is to have a sense of belonging. A sense of “this is who I am”.
A couple of years ago, I sat down with a new client who had recently moved to Canada. She felt that she had adapted well to the Canadian culture, but felt very homesick. She missed her family, even though she spoke to them often. She felt like she was depressed and didn’t know how to work her way out of it. I asked her about her family and what she missed most about her home. One of the things she said that she missed the most were the smells that came from her mother’s kitchen. Her mother was quite a proficient cook, and whenever she came home and opened the door, she knew she was home just by the smell of it. I asked this young woman about some of her favorite dishes that her mother made. She spoke of foods that had extremely exotic sounding names, and then how her mom had taught her how to make them. In the process of our meetings, she realized that some of her homesickness may be alleviated if she smelled some of those foods again. She emailed her mother and got some of the recipes and learned how to cook them “just like mom made it”.
Regardless of the time of year, traditions can be some of the most powerful lessons that we give to our children. Teach them who they are and where they have come from. Teach them about the people who make up their family tree and how they laid the foundation for the lives we now lead. Have a safe and happy holiday, and may God bless you and your family.
Jay Timms BMT, MA, CCC
Author, Presenter, Wellness Consultant
Relationship and Family Counsellor
Trivita Affiliate #13442869
604-816-9405 – 1-888-901-9454