Rituals & Traditions Through the Years

by Mary Johnson, Director of Children's Ministries

As we approach one of the most beloved holidays we celebrate in this country, it occurred to me that this is an event steeped in rituals and traditions - one of the Four Keys of Vibrant Faith we have been talking about this year.

Turkey dinner, football on TV, or travelling to be with family are a few of the basic traditions. For some families, the travels to be together may be across town, across the country, or just down the street.

On Thanksgiving day, for my family, it's a trip to a very warm climate where there is not a snowflake for miles. There may, or may not, be a touch football game on the beach. It is what we have come to celebrate as our family tradition.

It is certainly not what I grew up experiencing. Of course, pumpkin pie is still a must after the Thanksgiving meal - albeit poolside. Even that changed somewhat the year my mother asked me why I would bother to make the crust from scratch as she had taught me so many years ago. "But Mary, the Pillsbury crust out of the package is just as good!," she proclaimed. Reluctant, at first, to succumb to the quick and easy, I must confess that making eight pies on Thanksgiving morning is a whole lot easier with the packaged crust. I did not, however, apply that to the filling.   One year I was so worried I would not be able to find solid-packed pumpkin filling upon our arrival. I carried eight cans in my suitcase. So, when, and how do changes occur in our rituals and traditions?

When our girls were very young, there were certain activities we did every Christmas: decorating frosted roll-out cookies, going to The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol (we alternated years), and having breakfast with friends under the tree in the Walnut Room at Marshall Fields. I remember very clearly the Christmas when the decorating of cookies ended.

I was so stressed about getting the dough made, the cookies rolled out and baked, and having all the decorating ingredients ready, only to discover that it just wasn't a priority for the rest of my family.

Initially, I was very upset that this tradition was not going to happen. Then I realized that the times were changing; even alternating between the two shows changed. When you can recite the lines or sing all the songs to a show, you've seen it enough times. The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol are now replaced with the tradition of going to a current Broadway show or concert in Chicago. We look forward to it every year.

When we first transitioned to this new way of celebrating, we were so excited to be going to see Grease at the Schubert Theater. As I was sharing the plans of our family break with a parent at the girls' school, it was overheard in the hallways that we were going to "Greece." We got tons of advice about how we should certainly go to Mykonos.

There is room for interpretation when sharing your rituals and traditions with others. Whatever your plans for the Thanksgiving holiday include, may the joy of being with family and friends and celebrating in whatever fashion has become a ritual or tradition for you and yours, may you find it a time of giving thanks for the blessings to love and be loved.