Happy December 1st!, 2010
Connie Goldin ©2010, Mom to Madre
In our family, a new month begins when we exclaim, “Happy 1st.” Before that, regardless of what is actually true, the prior month is fixed in time. This is our tradition and we have done it for years. How it came about I do not know, but such is the nature of many traditions. Just this morning, I went on my computer to check my e-mail and immediately a Skype invitiation popped up from my son who is studying in Belgium. I won. I said it first. It may have been December 1st for over 12 hours in Belgium, but my utterance flipped the calendar’s page. With both sons living in Europe, armed with an unfair nine-hour time difference, it is indeed a bit more competitive. But I have thirty- three years experience on them.
Family traditions are fun and the continuity of them over the years reminds us of who we are and what we have shared as a family. December is the month for family traditions. Christmas has its date set in stone on December 25 every year. Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is trickier, as its celebrations depend on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev, and it tends to jump around date-wise on our calendar. This year it starts at sundown tonight -December 1- and lasts through December 9.
Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that begins on December 26 each year and lasts for seven days. It is a celebration of “Family, Community & Culture.” African-American families reflect on the seven principals of Kwanzaa which are:
Unity; Self Determination; Collective Work & Responsibility; Cooperative Economics; Purpose; Creativity; and Faith.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity of hearing a woman at a Head Start parent meeting talk about her joy of lighting the candles with her children during Kwanzaa. It was lovely.
Since my husband is Jewish and I am Christian, we started our family life together with the goal of celebrating each December holiday. At first we tried a full-fledged celebration of Hannukah before a full-fledged celebration of Christmas. That was a lot of celebrating and gift giving for one month! The kids were little and enjoyed the gifts, but the parents decided to consolidate the holidays. Over the years, the gift giving and candle lighting became a one-night event and then morphed into a special dinner full of Jewish dishes I learned to cook from my mother-in-law’s recipe cards. My entire family-the non-Jewish side -came to love “Grace’s Brisket”, “Aunt Anna’s Noodle Kugel” and my own version of potato latkes. It is wonderful, hearty food that is perfect for this time of year. I must say my brisket is famous in the family.
Moms have a special role in perpetuating the traditions. We are usually the ones who do all of the work. I learned about the value of hard work in celebrations from my mother and my grandmother. My mom can do Christmas like few others. She is still in charge of a beautiful prime rib dinner on Christmas Eve. When all the children were very little, Grandma would dress them up in sheets or towels as the Three Kings, Mary and Joseph, with a doll as Baby Jesus. They would then do a little procession. This was a childhood tradition from my family that I vividly remember.
From my earliest memories I recall my mom making paper flowers for my third birthday for just our little family and her dear friend’s family. She learned from her mother that special events called for genuine celebrations. I grew up with these wonderful events and I must say, it set the bar high for me, but I love them too. The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to these events, especially with young kids in the house. The kids won’t remember if the cake fell or the house was messy. They’ll remember that the family was together, sharing something special. They’ll remember to carry the torch (or at least the candles on the cake).
Holidays continue our cultures by teaching the next generation prayers, songs, rituals and recipes, essential elements that make up the foundation of traditions. They are important in our lives and in the lives of our children. Holidays and celebrations require special preparations, effort and energy, and they are a profitable investment that both enable and enrich the different cultures comprising our world. Whatever traditions you celebrate, Mom to Madre wishes you and your family Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas. ¡Feliz Navidad! Happy Hannukah. Happy Kwanzaa. May your family be blessed by all of the efforts you make on their behalf to celebrate your special traditions.