The first Christmas of my marriage, my husband informed me that I was required to put an orange, a bottle of green olives, and a can of grape juice in the bottom of his Christmas stocking. I asked why. He said, “I don’t know.” But that was the way the Richardsons did things. I followed tradition, even though I never once asked him to eat lutefisk or potato sausage, the Swanson Christmas traditions. I didn’t miss them.
Almost twenty-five years later, all three of our kids get an orange, a bottle of green olives, and a can of grape juice in the bottom of their Christmas stockings. When they ask why, I tell them, “I don’t know.” When I asked my mother-in-law why, she said, “I don’t know.” I’m going to guess that if I were able to ask her mother, or dad’s mother, or any of the entire series of mothers going back to the homeland, they would all say, “I don’t know.”
“But it’s tradition!” (Cue music.)
So, fifty yars form now, God willing, my great-grandkids will ask why they are receiving an orange, a bottle of green olives, and a can of grape juice in the bottom of their Christmas stockings. And my grandchildren will say, “I don’t know.”
Some traditions for tradition sake ought to die a well-deserved death. Their time has gone, if it ever came. Traditions like “children should be seen and not heard.” Or women doing all the cleaning up while the men watch football. Or forcing anyone within twenty miles to consume fruitcake, mincemeat pie, or plum pudding. Some traditions you simply cannot explain, and perhaps their necessity needs to be revisited.
In looking up a few Christmas traditions, I particularly liked the Ukraine tradition of tossing food at the ceiling on Christmas Eve. This sounds like something my family could really embrace. Not so much the Spanish poop log. I’ll leave that one to your imagination. Some traditions you simply cannot explain, and perhaps it’s better that way.
Some traditions, like oranges, olives, and grape juice, just live on, not because they make any sense at all, but because they create a sense of identity, family unity, and at least, stories to pass on. Some traditions you simply cannot explain, and that becomes half the fun. So what if you can’t explain it? That’s not the point. The tricky part is to figure out which traditions are which type. Which ones to keep and which ones to say goodbye to.
So my question for today is, what is your odd holiday tradition? Something you do, year after year, but you could not explain why if someone held a yule log to your feet. This should be fun to discover.
to us a Son is given.
And His name will be called
Prince of Peace.”