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The Traditions that bind us

by SARA JANE RUGGLES/Special to the Press
| December 13, 2020 1:00 AM

The holiday season is a time to come together and celebrate our loved ones in the present, but the connection to our past generations lies in the traditions they passed down to us. Whether you celebrate the season by lighting the menorah, decorating the Christmas tree, or enjoying the fruits of the season while gathering around the kinara, each family tradition has a unique story. As many of us are unable to travel to be with loved ones this holiday season, let’s find a way to keep our traditions alive during this long winter’s quarantine by preserving the story of our traditions.

Growing up, my parents worked hard to ensure that Christmas morning was the most magical day of the year. My memories are more beautiful than the illustrations in any story book. On Christmas Eve, my sisters and I would gather around my father as he read The Night Before Christmas and The Polar Express. We would go to bed imagining what it would be like to receive “the first gift of Christmas” and to hear the delightfully sweet sound of a bell from Santa’s sleigh. At dawn, us kids would sleepily, yet eagerly, gather at the bottom of the stairs and sing Bing Crosby’s “Meet the Sun Halfway” at the top of our lungs until we could hear our parents wake up. After Dad got the abnormally large family camcorder ready we would tip toe into the front room to see what Santa had delivered. Unfortunately, Santa always left soot footprints from the fireplace and cookie crumbles all over the carpet. Mom would anxiously vacuum up Santa’s untidy leftovers as we squealed and gasped over the treasures in our stockings. I remember worrying if Santa was going to get a “talking-to” from Mom. She would put on a pot of coffee and we would open presents while listening to enchanting Christmas melodies. After presents, we would enjoy our traditional brunch of egg casserole and breakfast potatoes with Martinelli’s sparkling cider in the “grown-up” wine glasses.

Every part of that morning, from the stockings Mom sewed for us to the theatrical frustration over Santa’s mess to the tiny bubbles floating in our cider glasses, it all meant something. And each detail plays a role in the memories my husband and I are making for our girls today. As I prepare for this year’s festivities, knowing that a big family Christmas is not likely going to take place, I am taking the Christmas CDs that my mother played every year and making a family playlist of our timeless favorites. I will send this playlist to my family members to play on Christmas morning and while I hope it will provide a comfort, it is also an opportunity for me to write down why this music is important to our family so my children will understand one day.

As we embark on our traditions this holiday season and come across those heirloom decorations, take a minute to write down their significance. Take note of your time-honored traditions and preserve the memories they symbolize. How did they begin? Why are they so meaningful to you? Who taught you about these traditions? You can even store these notes with the holiday decorations and know that these morsels of history are tucked away and ready for the next generations to discover and enjoy.

Take the time to enjoy the journey of capturing precious holiday memories and as always, please reach out to me through my website if you have questions: sarajaneruggles.com