It’s 1987. My little brother and I, then 6 and 7 are running laps around our deck, doing everything we can to tire ourselves out. It’s Christmas Eve. Our fort has been built in the bedroom we’ll share, for this one night a year, so we can give each other support through the longest night of the year in the childhood calendar. This ritual, repeated for many years, is one of my fondest memories of Christmastime.
Of all family traditions, it is often those centered around the December holidays which occupy the most space in our hearts and have grown some of the deepest roots in our memories. From the earliest days of our living through winter, we’ve craved warmth and light. While we create these with blazing hearths, twinkling Christmas trees, the candles of the menorah and others, it is
the warmth and light we feel in our hearts that is the truly magical part of tradition. Our celebrations, small and grand, tie us together from generation to generation. Our traditions pass, morph and merge with each new family we create. Now a mother myself, I am reveling in the idea of what Christmastime will mean to my daughter. We’ll be doing Elf on the Shelf for the first time this
year. She’ll get to help with the advent calendar and Christmas cookies. And the annual new ornament she’ll get will be the first to capture one of her favorite things: Elmo.
The truth is though, that the heart of tradition has so much less to do with the actual activity or ritual than the fact that we are doing it with the people who mean the most to us. They are merely the vehicles we use to foster the conversations, laughter and love that stay with us our whole lives. They are a kind of generational glue that binds families together, and it is that closeness,
more than anything, that I want my daughter to feel and remember. The magic of tradition is in the way such simple acts can bring so much comfort and joy. I know she’s still too young to recall the details of this Christmas, but I know the essence of all our traditions will be captured in her heart.