November 2023

Everything Old

Holiday celebrations made special with cherished traditions

by Corbin Crable

Far too often, we don’t truly appreciate traditions when we’re living them in the moment. This is especially true for those traditions observed during the holiday months.

When I was little, we would spend every Christmas Eve at the home of my maternal grandparents. Often, my parents, younger brother and I would be the first to arrive (and thus the first to get to the candy dish and munch on some chocolate peanut clusters, which Grandma made every Christmas). My aunts, uncles and cousins would trickle in right before the meal was served. We didn’t carve up a ham for the entrée – no, no, we were yuletide rebels who enjoyed tender, smoked brisket on little cocktail buns instead.

But the highlight of the entire evening – well, at least for the adults – was the completion of the small nativity scene that sat under the equally small Christmas tree in the living room.

Every Christmas Eve, my grandparents would put the baby Jesus figurine in an adjacent room, and it was the job of the youngest grandchild to carry the figurine into the living room and gingerly place it under the Christmas tree while everyone else watched. Eventually, this tradition evolved, and every year, the grandchildren took turns being the bearer of the savior. We grandchildren joked about how embarrassing the entire show felt as we shuffled our way toward the base of the tree, a chorus of “ooohs” and “aaahs” meeting our ears.

As an adult, however, I’ve come to appreciate the presence of such traditions. I know plenty of people who never had the opportunity to enjoy those with their family, and even those who didn’t have much of a family to begin with. Now, I feel fortunate that we youngsters were able to make our elders smile and feel surrounded by God’s presence. It’s still a memory my brother and I share every Christmas.

My mother’s tradition each Christmas became a Christmas Eve meal of spaghetti and meatballs, a little salute to our Sicilian heritage (for dessert, we’d enjoy a slice of sheet cake in honor of Jesus’ birthday). In recent years, I have started my own tradition of making a big pot of hearty minestrone soup (whose origins are in – you guessed it – Italy) with crusty bread and sharing it with friends. I look forward to it every year and ensure to make enough for multiple meals.

Whether your own traditions are steeped in your cultural heritage, whether they make you chuckle or even cringe a little bit, no matter how you feel about them, your sentimentality will only grow with the passing of time. And every year, as you lose members and gain others, you can keep their traditions alive or start your own. The feeling of connectedness, that feeling of family and community, that desire to make the season bright for your loved ones is all that needs to be behind the tradition itself. If you’ve created memories that others will share over the years, you’ve done your job. May you enjoy those longstanding traditions and make new ones this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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