The 50th in a Series
Traditions can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand they offer a thread of connection from one generation to the next that links at least a small part of the family narrative, while on the other traditions can trap us into believing there is no other way.
Our small family hasn’t leaned too much on tradition. Oh sure, there are things we look forward to that help to make the season bright: movies we enjoy revisiting; special food in which we like to indulge, etc., but we aren’t tied to the old ways. The ability to be flexible in the face of changing times is an important asset lest we live in a state of perpetual stress and disappointment.
Many Christmas traditions revolve around food. Certain items can be baked and others bought. What’s a turkey without homemade cranberry sauce, or sumptuous shortbread without a glass of classic eggnog? Lately my mother has been lamenting the fact she hasn’t been able to find Christmas hard candy this season. Usually it can be bought in bulk, but for some reason this year it’s nowhere to be found. A supply chain problem, perhaps, or is it conceivable there’s been some kind of run on Christmas hard candy this year? The reason doesn’t matter ~ many have been the groans of dismay.
For as long as I can remember mom has had a bowl of this special candy on display during the holidays, (I’m partial to the cinnamon-flavoured ones.) However, it wasn’t until this year I learned that this simple tradition dates back to my mother’s own childhood when her mother/grandmothers kept colourful hard candy in a prominent spot available for eager consumption. And so now her abject disappointment at not being able to find any to meet that simple tradition is totally understandable. Perhaps next year we’ll be able to reinstate it.
Still, with the passage of time things change. As we get older our relationship with food becomes more complicated. Out of necessity our portions get smaller, and our tolerance for rich flavours and sugary treats diminishes. Some Christmas culinary traditions die and really there is nothing to be done if in the end they turn out to be harmful to our health and wellbeing. Sure, I miss double servings of my favourite turkey stuffing, but is the hours of subsequent bloating really worth a moment’s pleasure?
Music has always been an important part of our Christmas tradition. From gathering around the piano to sing carols to participating in the heartfelt renderings of a humble church choir, to the privilege of performing carol concerts and the magnificent Handel’s Messiah in major public venues, music has been a focal point of our Christmas experiences.
These days we tend to listen more than participate. Time and energy just aren’t what they used to be. Still the holiday season would not be complete without the traditional music of Christmas, and on that note we’ll end with this link to the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah as performed by The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (TMC) with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. I was a soprano in the TMC for 11 seasons (1989-1997; 1999-2001) and was blessed to perform this marvellous work around 75 times, (not to mention all the delicious rehearsing). I know the work by memory. It’s tradition lives in me. Click here for a taste of that sacred Christmas music tradition. Brings back such wonderful memories.
The Final Word
It’s a sobering thought, yet entirely possible, that the main reason tradition takes a back seat in our small family is that there’s no next generation to run with it. The thread of ancestral connection dies with us. And so it is.❦
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