The Holidays are full of traditions. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA. We had snow at Christmas time. The tradition of choosing the perfect Christmas tree was daunting. Every year, I remember going out in sub-zero weather in search of the perfect fir. We didn’t actually have to cut one down. They had Christmas tree lots, where for a price, you could get any kind of conifer you wanted. Finding the right one however seemed to be a task that took my dad to at least 3 tree lots and several hours in, did I mention, sub-zero weather. There was a lot of scrutinizing before the purchase was actually made. There was a great deal of shaking and fluffing as the trees were covered in snow and mostly frozen stiff. After finding a tree as close to perfect as possible, we’d strap it to the roof of our Chevy and drive home. Inevitably this near perfect specimen would fill half of our living room. It was always too tall for my mother to fit her beautiful Christmas angel on top of. In fact we usually had to cut the bottom and the top off of the tree to make it fit. It appeared as if it had grown in our basement, up through our living room and out through the roof of our house. My dad would beam with pride at how impressive it was. After the new centerpiece of our living room had been resized and put up, the ritual of decorating it began. Hours of sorting out the lights, which included untangling and finding the culprit burnt out bulbs. This was inevitably accompanied with a few choice words from dad. Then embellishing the tree with 100’s of ornaments followed. There couldn’t be too many of the same colored ornaments in one spot for heaven sake! Tinsel had to be placed on the branches one piece at a time! It all sounds very taxing. But the shear delight of falling in a heap exhausted and taking in the magnificence of this shining masterpiece, was truly wonderful. Our tree was glowing so bright you could see it through the window two blocks away!
Now that I live in Tasmania and there is no snow. I have over the years developed new traditions and rituals around the holidays. They are much simpler. A Christmas BBQ and a trip to the beach is more in the cards these days.
So whether you follow old traditions or create new traditions it is a special time of the year for most people. Kids are out of school and our little town swells and triples it’s population. It is a time when no matter what you believe or don’t believe you some how get pulled into your own traditions or someone else’s. There seems to be a conspiracy that you must celebrate some treasured tradition with someone at this time of year.
It’s slightly different for everyone. I remember a story of how one family used to bake a ham for dinner to celebrate the holidays. They would cut off the end of the ham before putting it into the oven. Finally someone asked, “Why do you cut the end of the ham off?” The daughter, who was cooking replied, “Because it’s tradition. Our family has always done it this way.” So she decided to ask her mum. “Why do we cut the end off of the ham?” Mum replied, “Well, I don’t know, but it’s tradition. Lets ask grandma.” “Grandma, why cut the end off of the ham?” Grandma said, quite surprised by the question, “Well, because it’s tradition! Our family has always cut the end of the ham off before baking it. It’s just what we have always done.” Still not really having the question answered, there was one more generation present for that dinner, Great Grandma. Surely she must know the answer. So they all went to her and asked the question once again. Great Grandma, after contemplating the question replied. “I don’t know, but my mother used to cut the end of the ham off because she didn’t have a pan big enough to fit the ham into.” Ha! There you have it. Surely a tradition that must never be broken!
I believe that what ever your background or your traditions are, the key is to relish and enjoy them. Take time to savor and remember the people and the good times around them. If you find yourself in an unfamiliar place or with people who have different traditions than you, be open and accepting of them. You may find their rituals to be unusual or even silly. But you never know, you may embrace some of these new traditions as your own. You may even decide to pass them on to others in the years to come. Whatever you do, remember to revel in the moment. It is not what happens in our life that matters it’s how we respond. Give yourself permission to have fun! Make that your new tradition if it’s not yours already. Laugh often, it lowers cortisol levels and stimulates production of the happy hormone, serotonin, lowers both your heart rate and your blood pressure. Hug a lot. It can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. Share your memorable stories. They too can increase your feelings of happiness and connectedness. Happiest of Holidays to you…no matter whose tradition you find yourself in this year.
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball, Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method Teacher 0428223271