Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It just wouldn't be Christmas without traditions

From today's Gazette. This story touched my heart and I would like to share it with you.

By Marian Scott, The Gazette

December 24, 2008

Every December, Heather Summerhayes Cariou gets out her dog-eared cookie recipe, puts on some Yuletide music and bakes golden shortbread stars.
The holiday ritual brings back happy memories of making Christmas treats with her younger sister, Pam, who died 28 years ago of cystic fibrosis at age 26.
“I put her picture on the counter when I’m baking,” said Cariou, author of Sixtyfive Roses, A Sister’s Memoir.
“I didn’t see any reason for the ritual to end (when she died).”
Whether it’s leaving out milk and cookies for Santa or preparing a treasured family recipe, traditions provide comfort and continuity in a changing world, said Donald Taylor, a professor of social psychology at McGill University.
“What Christmas traditions do is serve as symbolic anchors, whether it’s special cookies or going skating on Christmas day,” Taylor said.
“Whatever it is, these traditions are hugely important.”
The joy of Christmas can seem like a sick parody when you’re trudging wearily through the mall as yet another canned rendition of Little Drummer Boy blares, or doing hand-to-hand combat at the tree lot. “There is the huge pressure of running around and shopping,” lamented Taylor.
Yet, come Dec. 24, the time-honoured customs are dusted off once more: the special dishes only used at Christmas, the treetop angel your son made in Grade 3, the sausage stuffing without which Christmas dinner just wouldn’t taste right.
“We may not even know it, but when we arrive at them, these are the things that settle us,” said Taylor.
Once again, Dad will drive the kids crazy by taking forever to eat his pancakes on Christmas morning, since opening presents only starts after breakfast. Once more, the same familiar faces gather around the table and everyone pronounces this year’s tree the best ever.
“The more the world is fast-paced, the more these traditions become anchors of predictability for us,” said Taylor.
Rituals provide reassurance when global financial troubles loom and the newly elected government teeters on the brink of defeat.
They persist even when economic uncertainty takes a toll on holiday shopping. Analysts predict this year will go down as the worst Christmas in years for retailers because of the global downturn. In fact, when consumerism declines, the essence of the holiday shines through.
“My family lived through wars and displacement, but the breaking of bread was always there,” said Addie Ciebien, a Gazette reader who shares her Polish traditions in the accompanying article (see above)
And that saying about how Christmas is only for little kids? Taylor doesn’t buy it.
“The 19-year-old is rough and tough and anti-authority, but you’ve still got to put out the milk and cookies for Santa,” he said. “He hopes Mom and Dad will do it, so he doesn’t have to ask.”
For writer Cariou, whose sister’s death still seems like yesterday, Christmas routines provide solace.
“The holidays can be difficult,” she said.
“If you can develop a joyful ritual, it’s comforting.”
So deck the halls and roast the chestnuts.
Whip up the hard sauce and stuff the stockings.
Whether your holiday includes sweet potato pie studded with mini-marshmallows or making angels in the snow, honour those traditions. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

1 comment:

Bill Widman said...

"Without our traditions,
our lives would be as shakey as...
as a fiddler on the roof!"

I'm sure you know which musical that's from.

I'm inclined to agree with that.