Traditions

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

I love a bit of tradition.

I feel like I spent the best part of my late teens and even early twenties desperately trying to establish My Own Life. I wanted to do my own thing, and do it differently, and I wanted to decide everything for myself because I was my own person, thank you very much.

Especially when I first met Chris. It was like I wanted to wipe away the (terrible) year or so that had gone before and start again. I had to figure out what was important to us. How we wanted to do things. It was a process of detachment from what had gone before. And unfortunately, I ended up detaching a little bit from good things too. From good people.

Now I've had a baby I feel like I understand the importance of, well, family. Of remembering loved ones that are no longer with us. I'm starting to understand how important it is to protect that tight bond that comes with having the same blood pumping through your veins, the same DNA.

Christmas has always softened my walls a little bit anyway.

But no other time of the year makes me stop and think as much as Christmas.

For me, the day that we get the tree up is a highlight of the year. I almost enjoy it as much as Christmas itself. This year, it became an all-afternoon event. Church in the morning, then Chris cooked a roast while Jellybean had a nap, and I put the decorations up. Then after dinner we settled down for a film. (Arthur Christmas, which as a side note totally made me cry the first time I saw it).

We've decided that will be how it goes every December from now on. Roast, tree, film.


Delicious roastyness is on the way.

Even though we, as our own family unit, have created that tradition ourselves, I am still doing some of the same things my parents do. Listening to Bing Crosby as we decorate. Nothing makes me think of my grandparents more than Bing. His voice makes me remember, like I've looked down and rediscovered my roots. I listen to Bing and I wonder how their Christmases were, them with their nine kids, barely scraping by each year but still laughing at the end of it.

I listen to Bing Crosby in tribute to them, just as my parents do.

And it makes me think of time passing. Suddenly I see my life as it actually is: a small part of history. Not forever, as I imagine my time on this Earth to be, and I hope that someone remembers me once a year at least. For a moment I feel a weird nostalgia mixed with a tinge of sadness, as well as overwhelming joy, and it hits me, and all of a sudden it is gone again.

I feel grateful to be connected. I feel grateful for family.

That is why tradition is important.

You see, its easy to get swept up in commerical stuff. Especially when you see what others are doing around you: every year going to see a panto, every year having a meal out with family, every year going ice skating, every year going to the cinema. And even the non-expensive stuff can be a stretch: activity advent calendars and Christmas books to unwrap each day and Elf on the Shelf and Christmas Eve boxes with new pyjamas and hot chocolate and movies ...

I love it all. I love seeing what other people do. But I can't do it all.

We pick the ones that matter the most to us.

And I let go of everyone else's idea of a perfect holiday. (Perfection, remember? It's a myth!)

***

The thing is, I am quite stubborn. I don't like to admit that I need help, and I don't always want guidance or advice. I think it comes from years of being treated as the cute, fragile one because I'm small. And sometimes the smallest things can trigger that feeling in me. Because I feel sometimes people think I might break.

I'm a grown woman! I'm perfectly capable! Let me do things my own way.

Sometimes, though, it's nothing to do with how people perceive me. People are just being nice. It's more to do with how I perceive myself. I rebel against tradition and advice because I feel like I want that control.

Tradition softens that part of me. It makes me feel grateful. It makes me feel connected to my parents. It's why I wrap my decorations in pages torn from the Argos catalogue every year, ready to be stored in the loft for next time.I barely ever shop at Argos. I don't need an Argos catalogue. But I like to have one around in the New Year. Because I need to wrap my decorations in it.



That's what my Mum does.

It's why I use Cooks matches. No other brand of match will do. If I have a little square box of matches I feel a bit weird using them. If I'm buying matches, I'll always choose those, even if they're higher up and I have to stand on my tiptoes, even if they're more expensive.

Because that's what my Mum uses.

It's funny isn't it, how certain parts of your childhood stay with you, permanent fixtures long after you've left home. It's like parts of your life as a kid stay imprinted in you forever.

Permanently connected with loved ones, expressed in the smallest of ways.

And that act, of getting the boxes down from the loft, of unwrapping each decoration and exclaiming over how pretty they are, remembering where we bought them or who gave them to us, that is important to me. It reminds me of being a kid and doing the same thing. Gently unwrapping. Discovering what is inside. And when you're a kid, anything sparkly looks like treasure. It's like finding box after box of treasure and you can't contain the wonder of it all.





Small things. Material things, at the end of the day. But they become something more. They symbolise something important. It's not so much the objects themselves that are important. It's what they come to represent. It's what they cause you to think about.

***

I wonder what parts of Christmas Jellybean will remember. I wonder if she will remember the lighting of the Advent candle every meal time, the extra long prayer of thanks we say before eating. I wonder if she will remember that slow unfolding of treasures, that rediscovery of wonders we had forgotten.

I wonder what parts of our life she will take into her own when she is a grown up. What things will stick with her.

In the meantime, I pray and I write and I read and I reflect and I hope that she will grow up to understand that Christmas, as a whole, represents something else. It represents something important, even more important than family. It represents hope, and rescue, and endless love that goes deeper than anything you can ever imagine.

It represents life. Birth. But also sacrifice and conquering death and bridges built and love enduring forever.

The run up to Christmas makes me remember. Makes me feel connected. Not just to loved ones. But to a family I have been adopted into. Centuries of Christians that have gone before me, stopping to remember the same thing, heads filled with thoughts of dusty stables and starry night skies.

***

Sometimes I think we place a lot of importance on independence, on personal success, on achieving goals and standing out as individuals. Sometimes, I think we want to present a version of ourselves to the world that is acceptable to everyone, a kind of 'look how well I am doing all by myself' sort of thing.

Moments, and objects, that are passed down from generation to generation soften that barrier, I think. It makes you stop and remember that we're not meant to go it alone. We're not meant to live in isolation. We are meant to connect with one another, we're meant to build each other up, we're meant to draw comfort from others, we're meant to change people and we are meant to allow others to change us.

Traditions. They are important. No matter what my stubborn heart thinks the rest of the year ;)



***

So. Next week's Mummy Mondays - last one before I take a break for the holidays! - is going to be about our traditions and what we do to celebrate the birth of Jesus. So, what are yours? I'd love to know. I'd also love to know if there are others as soppy and sentimental as I am. Comments are always welcome.

I have entered this post into a Blog Hop hosted by BritMums. You can enjoy a whole host of festive posts by brilliant bloggers by clicking on the links below!


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