Holiday Memories Rest On
By Pat Stelzer
For most people, holiday seasons bring with them warm memories from years past.
Traditions are the stuff those memories are built on, and each family has its
own special tradition that comes either from the long ago past or has been built
in just one or two generations. The number of years a tradition has existed
doesn't matter. A tradition's uniqueness comes from the love and sharing that
has gone into its creation. Traditions can be built around any holiday, be it
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day or Fourth of July. But most families are
fondest of those surrounding Christmas.
Important Christmas traditions bring a sense of continuity to family members
whether they are living in the same town or hundreds of miles away. Brothers and
sisters know exactly what their siblings are doing to celebrate the season.
Cousins know just the right greeting to send one another. Aunts and uncles
understand what is important to their nieces and nephews. Traditions span
distance and generations.
Many holiday traditions have come from immigrants who brought their special
observances with them. Many of those, like the Christmas tree, have become a
part of almost every family's Christmas celebration, thanks to the German
immigrants who brought the tradition with them to their new land. Yule logs
grace many homes, stockings to be filled with treats hang on fireplaces, and
nativity scenes hold a special place of honor.
Some of the most cherished traditions have been created in this country by
writers like Clement C. Moore who penned "Twas The Night Before Christmas". He
is responsible for creating the reindeer and the jolly St. Nicholas who came
down the chimney. Thomas Nast, one of the first true political cartoonists, is
basically the man responsible for the American image of Santa Claus. And who
doesn't know about Francis P. Church's reply in the New York Sun to Virginia
O'Hanlon's question `is there really a Santa Claus. Christmas carols written
many years ago remind us of the Star, the Wise Men and the Shepherds who
journeyed to see the newborn child. From these stories, drawings and music were
born the traditions held dear by so many of us, but some families have gone on
to develop very special traditions that are theirs to share with one another.
Lest we forget, Charles Dickens' story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim added words to
the English vocabulary. Everyone understands what a Scrooge is and everyone
understands that Tiny Tim is the symbol of love and hope. But these aren't the
only traditions of importance.
We recently learned of one that has become a part of a family's Thanksgiving
celebration, but it is one that could easily become a Christmas tradition. The
family purchases one of our rustic signs, has everyone sign the back of it,
dates the sign, and then gives it to one member of the family as a keepsake.
What a great new tradition. Every family could do something similar, and it
doesn't need to be a sign. It is the idea that is important. Finding some "gift"
that symbolizes the holiday and sharing in that "gift" is a heartwarming way to
give special meaning to family gatherings. Every time the recipient looks at
that keepsake, it becomes a reminder of loved ones sharing the holidays. At
Christmas, it could be a little like finding the pickle on the Christmas tree
and receiving a special memento, an old tradition that made a comeback in the
Another family we know collects money on Thanksgiving, then uses the money to
help a family in need at Christmas. One holiday activity leads to another,
giving special meaning to both. They share the tradition of giving with one
another, and each year a different member of the family decides who or what will
be the recipient of their joint gift. The giving and the decision-making extend
to the youngest members of the family. Everyone participates equally, and the
children learn to actively become a part of the family's belief in sharing the
season with those less fortunate than themselves. Other families bake cookies
together, sing carols together or trim the tree together.
A tradition's age or origin isn't the important element. The sharing and caring
that become a part of it are what memories are built upon. Make this the year
that a new family tradition is born or an old one is resurrected. Handed down
from generation to generation, traditions form an unbroken link within families,
countries and cultures. Traditions become part of the ties that bind us all
together. What an important role simple tradition plays in all our lives.
Patricia Stelzer, Springfield, Ohio USA
Pat Stelzer is a writer, columnist, reporter, and retired school teacher,
currently an adjunct instructor at a community college. She has a long running
interest in home decorating and in rustic or folk art pieces, her own
175-year-old home a veritable collection of many types of Americana and folk
art. She has recently published her first mystery novel, "DANGEROUS RESEARCH, BY
GEORGE!" Information about it can be found at