Let me start by saying our family used panty hose for Christmas stockings. Do you know how far panty hose stretch and how much you can stuff in them? And anything goes – fruit, tooth brushes, underwear (which had to be worn on your head if you got underwear in your stocking). Sometimes we’d go so far as to tie ‘trailers’ on the toe of the stocking if the goodie wouldn’t fit inside the stocking – like an omelet pan. I know…”why didn’t you just wrap them up in a box like normal people?” We did – we had traditional wrapped presents as well. But the stockings were half the fun! And when the kids looked in the den with their sleepy eyes and saw their stocking draped over the back of a chair filled to overflowing with a mystery bonus gift tied to the toe – well, priceless. You should have seen what our 80 year old grandmother did with her stocking and a banana … and two oranges…use your imagination!!
But now it was Easter which, to us, traditionally meant dying Easter Eggs…and hiding them along with chocolate bunnies and robin’s eggs which were malted milk balls – which the kids hated but I loved. But that was pretty much the extent of the Easter Celebration. This is not to say that we didn’t celebrate the resurrection of Christ – we just didn’t restrict it to a particular day. But her fiancé’s family had traditions that paled in comparison – like refraining from eating meat for six weeks! When you come from the land of beef, that concept was…well, hard to swallow! He also does the egg thing but they follow the Orthodox calendar so it’s never the same time as mainstream Easter which was confusing at first but then I realized HEY…twice as much fun! But this was his tradition and if she wanted to embrace it that would be her decision. I just wanted malted milk balls.
My son married and embraced the traditions of his wife which meant he would not celebrate any holiday. I have to be honest that at first that was a system shocker – not so much the thought of not having family Christmas together or that he wouldn’t pass the panty hose custom down the family tree but more that I wouldn’t be getting a birthday present from him any more. Birthdays are big to me. It’s a tradition that goes back to when my grandmother started throwing her own birthday party and does to this day. I love that tradition so I embraced that one myself.
My other son has been dating a girl who doesn’t celebrate the resurrection or Christmas at all. And she’s Vegetarian – which is amazing that someone can refrain from ever having a Chili’s Big Mouth Burger. Six weeks? Maybe. So….I learned all about hummus. I also began learning about Shabbat and the beauty of people rich in history.
From my daughter’s fiancé I learned about "stefana", thin white crowns used in an Orthodox wedding which are joined by a white ribbon and have been blessed by the priest. These crowns symbolize the glory and honor that is being bestowed on them by God, and the ribbon symbolizes their unity.
And I learned that you don’t need any holiday or tradition to express love and acceptance. And that being given a gift for no reason other than “I thought you’d like this” is better than anything tradition ever guilted us into buying.
The beauty of family begins with embracing diversity and making room for new traditions – even if those traditions include the removal of some old ones. Happy…every day!