When I grew up we used to celebrate the Christmas holiday on Christmas Eve. The practice began one year when my father had to work Christmas Day at the firehouse. Somehow we liked it so much we kept that tradition. Christmas Eve was a special night. We would wait with anticipation for it to get dark outside. Then, the Christmas tree would be turned on. Mom would put out a large display of special foods and desserts, and an arrangement of dozens of homemade Christmas cookies. The television would be turned off, and the stereo would get turned on to listen to Christmas music. Presents would be opened later in the evening, and at some point that night, my father would ask my sister and I each to dance. As a little girl I didn’t mind, and he would pick me up in a hug and circle me around the room for what seemed like a long time, probably just a minute or two. He would have a big smile on his face, glowing from the inside out, as he hugged his little girl on Christmas Eve. Through my teenage years I thought it a bit silly, but he still asked, “Oh, won’t someone dance with their dear old Dad?” We danced every year. My last dance was two years ago, and I look back with warm thoughts and a big smile, hearing Dad call out, “Oh, won’t you dance with your dear old Dad?”
The smallest things constitute memories. Friday night family game night, homemade chicken soup on the first fall day, dinner out to a special restaurant on your 18th birthday, family and friends counting down on New Years Eve with Grandpa leading the charge, football rival games celebrated. There are so many ways to create and celebrate our lives through traditions. I worry a bit like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof™ that through the generations these special practices may end, leaving behind the moments that placed the warmth in our hearts. Traditions seem a bit taken for granted, possibly underestimated these days. Some consider them passé, important to our parents or grandparents but not necessary to preserve or pass down to our families. And the time factor of planning or doing something together seems so difficult some days. As our generations age, family recipes are disappearing, hand written note cards are emailed, and card games aren’t played quite as often. Times do change, and while we have to say goodbye to some childhood memories, I hope we are creating new ones. I don’t mind holiday emails or new recipes, as long as I can share them with the ones I love. Creating and sharing special moments year after year – whatever they may be – are what make us look forward to times together, and what leave us with warm hearts and homegrown memories that keep us going. I know they do for me. If I need a smile, it’s not far away. Who knew Dad was creating such a warm place in my heart to carry on for a lifetime, enabling a quick and close feeling of family and assurance. Who knew it would be that simple to create such a fond memory… all from two minutes in our living room.