This is the time of year that we all start thinking about traditions. My cousin visited from Sweden a couple of weeks ago and as we talked about the holidays it became clear that we share traditions as well as blood. Her visit made me realize that some traditions aren’t completely unique to my household and that sometimes things that seem perfectly normal to me can be very strange to others.
One traditions that my cousin and I share is our holiday decorations. When I was little I always thought that our minimalistic holiday displays were just easier than the tour bus worthy displays of our neighbors. I now realize that our decorations run much deeper. In Sweden you an find any number of houses to match ours. There are streets full of houses that have a single candle in each window and a star above the entry way. This is a tradition handed down from my Swedish grandfather and it is something that too me a long time to fully understand.
The swedish traditions also extend to the baked goods seen in my mothers kitchen. A couple weeks ago I mentioned saffron bread and ginger cookies. Both are typical celebratory snacks reserved for the Feast of Saint Lucia, and both are typical snacks for the holidays. Our tree is trimmed with traditional Swedish straw ornaments.
My fathers side of the family has also contributed to our holiday celebrations. The Barnaby’s spend every Christmas Eve decorating our Christmas tree which is taken down on New Year’s Day. This is also the only way to guarantee that all of us will be able to participate in the process of decorating. This is great since none of us live in the same house or state anymore.
We have also created some of our own traditions throughout the years. For dinner on Christmas Eve we always have seafood. Our crab cocktails and cakes have improved greatly since my parents moved to Washington and started catching their own crab. For breakfast on Christmas Day we always eat bagels with cream cheese and salmon. I’m not entirely sure how this one started but it’s something we all love and there is never any discussion about what we are going to have for Christmas breakfast. We then end the Christmas festivities with a fairly generic turkey dinner, which my mother insists on making pretty much from scratch.
Traditions are different in every household and they have a way of bringing us closer together. As the years go by I have gradually drifted farther away from my family. That is the simple nature of growing up. As we age the brightly wrapped toys are replaced by useful things that are desired no less than the frivolities of childhood, and traditions hold strong.