This time of year we are bombarded by ads that pull at our heartstrings, and evoke ‘timeless’ holiday traditions that your family will always remember. Funny enough, most of us have probably forgotten how our families celebrated this season in generations past. If you ask your parents or grandparents today, they may paint a very different picture of what holiday traditions looked like when they were young.
I remember being amazed to learn that my grandfather’s Christmas tree consisted of bare branches painted white and wrapped in cotton to represent snow. Perhaps this was common during the Great Depression when only well-to-do families had evergreen trees. You made do with what you had, and fallen branches were easy to come by. My grandfather continued this holiday tradition with his own family, and my father and his siblings still talk about the strange spartan trees that they had growing up.
On my mother’s side, times were hard, and money was always in short supply. She remembers that around the holidays her family received an extra supply of food from the welfare society and warm clothing for her and her sister. They welcomed the charity, but it also highlighted their tremendous need. My siblings and I always had ample gifts under the tree, and my mother relished watching us tear into our presents on Christmas morning. Satisfying our gluttony was proof that she had beaten the cycle of poverty. Nothing else could produce such a smile of contentment on her face.
Despite the proliferation of inflatable lawn ornaments, and remote control yule logs, what hasn’t changed about this time of year is our tendency to gather together, eat good food, and share stories. These are the memories we will cherish the most about our holidays, not the latest new gadget or the shiny toy. This year, make a point to ask your loved ones about their memories of holidays past, and discover once again how much there is to be grateful for.