It's the morning after Thanksgiving, and I'm huddled under the blankets, thankful for a day to sleep in. I'm vaguely aware that my son's up and padding around the living room. And then I hear it, loud and clear. My home is being visited by "The King." Yes, Elvis Presley.
"I'll have a blue Christmas without you ," Elvis croons. Even in my sleepy condition, I smile. The Christmas season has officially begun at our house. You see, we have a tradition that we can't play holiday music until the day after Thanksgiving, and then only after we've listened to Elvis sing this song. It's our signal Christmas is on its way. It's a goofy little tradition; I'm not even sure how it got started. But it's one we simply can't break.
In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the townspeople sang of traditions that helped each person understand his or her place in the family, in the village, and in society. In Old Testament times, God asked his people to hold annual festivals to remember what he'd done for them. For example, Passover memorialized the tenth plague God sent, which allowed the Israelites to be freed from slavery in Egypt. These celebrations served several purposes: They reminded people of God's provision of food, safety, and guidance; they turned people's hearts back to God; and they gave older people a chance to tell the younger ones about the great things God had done.
Traditions do the same for us today, as we pause at Thanksgiving to thank God for his provision and care; as we gather at Christmas and New Year's to tell stories with loved ones about "the good old days"; and as we use minor celebrations to express the joy of knowing God day by day.
Traditions are entwined in our lives. We think of the big celebrations at holidays as traditions. Mom always cooks a turkey, Aunt Jane always makes the sweet potato casserole (you know, the one with the marshmallows melted on top), and Cousin Henry takes a picture of the table before anyone's allowed to sit down. There are also smaller traditions we often take for granted, such as praying before a meal, putting candles on a birthday cake, or kissing loved ones before leaving the house. Big or small, traditions add richness to our lives. They give us common ground with others. They give us touch points, times and events to remember fondly. They help us feel secure when things around us aren't.
As I asked others about their traditions, I found women enjoying traditions that bring them closer to their loved ones. Some women return to the same vacation spot with family each year. Others sing the same song with their children before bed each night. One woman and her husband read aloud to each other on Sunday evenings. Two sisters watch old black-and-white movies on Saturday nights while nibbling their way through a huge chocolate bar. A single woman told me how each year on her birthday, she invites her dearest friends over for a special meal she's prepared. After the meal, she gives each friend a gift, something that reflects each person's value to her.