The holidays can be a complex time for many people. For some, it could be joy and happiness; for others, it could mean tragedy and heartbreak. Many of us celebrate with large families, friends; others perhaps celebrate with only themselves or a small group. What we all perhaps have in common is the notion of traditions—and the importance of understanding and maintaining them. Traditions may often be silly or drawn out to the point of mental (or physical) exhaustion, but they nonetheless provide the foundation to support family and friend dynamics.
Since I can remember, my parents continue to standby their saying, “If you don’t believe in Santa Claus, he won’t believe in you.”
Let’s go back to circa 1999. My eldest brother was (and still is) that sibling. Everyone has that brother or sister, typically the difficult one who learns everything the hard way—the one in the family who challenges everything. During that Christmas time, he fought my parents’ ongoing love of holiday spirit by reminding us to believe in Santa Claus. Although my siblings were all in their teens and I was in junior high, at an age where many would see it ridiculous to believe in Santa, my other two brothers and I recognized how much this tradition meant to my parents.
However, my eldest brother did not. Needless to say, Christmas morning did not treat him well. Not only did he not receive any gifts, his stocking was filled with onions from our kitchen. It was a hard lesson to learn. Yet, it paid off. He was the first one with his Christmas wish list the next year.
Alongside the spirit of Santa Claus, my family and I prepare tamales every year for Christmas dinner. A three-day process, tamale making is the real holiday “day” in our family. My parents, siblings, sister-in-laws, (now) nephews, and a handful of extended family and friends get together to cook an assortment of tamales that will feed an small community for a year. It’s an exhausting process, but it’s one that nobody would ever think of sacrificing.
Why? We realize that the small things in life like believing in Santa Claus or making tamales over an entire weekend—that these moments—are the glue that binds a family. I look around at many family and friends who do not have their form of tradition, and, quite honestly, it’s sad sight to see.
Traditions allow us to love, hurt, laugh, and cry. Through these emotions, however, traditions remind us that we are not alone. In a time where I constantly hear that 2016 is the worst year across all spectrums, traditions ground us by giving us a reason to wake up everyday. They are the hope, and the light to guide us through dark times.
Ask yourself what traditions or small moments to you perhaps take for granted during the holidays. What can you embrace a bit more each year? If you don’t have any, then what can you start doing to build your foundation?
Not everyone has the dynamics, holidays, or traditions that you have, so when your parents ask you about your wish list to Santa, you better have it ready to go. Remember, these moments won’t last forever.
Cover image property of: The Santa Clause film series