Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the great holiday season. Now it is almost nonstop on a race toward Easter.
There are seven holidays that I consider major: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Two are religious in origin and all the rest are social celebrations.
During the past week, I was thinking about why we all react in unison to these varied holidays. It has to be more than just another day off work.
I read a story about eating fish on Fridays some time ago — it goes like this: Around the 17th century, the pope of the Roman Catholic Church was concerned about the economic conditions along the coastline of Spain and Portugal; people were not buying fish. In a decree, it was stated that everyone should eat fish on Friday in honor of Christ’s suffering. It wasn’t long until this order by the pope became a habit with everyone in the Catholic religion. The economic conditions in Spain recovered, or so the story goes. And soon the eating of fish on Fridays became a tradition, even though the order was rescinded in the 1970s.
I am not Catholic but have eaten fish on Fridays for as long as I can remember. So which drives what? Curious, I looked up both in the dictionary. Habit is “a means of acting fixed through repetition.” Tradition is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, behavior or social custom.”
All throughout my growing up, our family went to Clinton to spend Thanksgiving with my Aunt Helyn and her family. One year she made the announcement she was not going to host the annual dinner anymore because it was just too much. She and my mother were about the same age, so I jumped on the opportunity to be the host the next year. I carried this honorable yoke for the next several years. But as families expand, it becomes necessary to give up these pride issues and open up our minds to the younger generation.
This year Judy and I spent the first year ever celebrating Thanksgiving dinner alone. Yes, it was a little strange, but we talked about how good we felt about our children having the celebration with members of their extended families. We sometimes forget that now we are old, too, (until the day of the big dinner arrives) and it may be time to turn over the reins to the younger family members.
There are many songs and stories about “I’ll be home for Christmas” or “Easter time with mom and dad.” If you live out of state, here’s an idea for you to consider: Put mom and dad on a plane and fly them to your house for the holidays. It’s my guess that they would enjoy seeing how you live with the added bonus of seeing Denver or Phoenix or Cleveland.
Don’t get stuck in the rut of, “That’s the way it has always been.” Strong traditions survive because a strong member steps forward to make sure that everything is best for everybody involved. Traditions don’t just happen — it takes the dedication and a common cause to hold them together.
As for our solitary noon meal, my kids, their spouses and grandkids all showed up at the house that evening to say “Hi” and visit.