To paraphrase an old french quote, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, to; the more things stay the same, the more they change.
No where is tradition more evident than at holidays; festivities and celebrations that are passed down year after year. In the U.S. our holidays serve as a yearly history lesson, albeit not the the best way to teach, but at least a reminder of those events in our history that are important and descriptive of the marrow of our culture and serves as a snapshot of who we are and how we came to be that way.
For us here the July 4th commemoration of the founding of our country is probably the biggest holiday, followed closely by it's precursor, Thanksgiving. Christmas is a holiday universally celebrated. For the purposes of this post I'll discuss the last two mentioned and put forth what traditions we as a family have followed in their regard and how the following of tradition has led to changes in those self same traditions.
For the first 17 years of my existence, Thanksgiving was always celebrated at Aunt Nellie's. The meal was always the same: roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rutabagas, green beans, gravy, pumpkin and apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on the side.
Interestingly, for a large family of French-Canadian descent, and who were related to more than half the people in our city of 15,000 inhabitants, (for the longest time I thought we were related to everyone
in the city) our dinner was attended by only immediate family: Uncle Ed and Aunt Nellie, Mom, dad, and me and later on by my brother and sister, 10 and 12 years younger respectively.
In 1975 my wife and I together with the first two of our three children moved into our present home. And for the next 30 years, with one or two exceptions, Thanksgiving was celebrated in our dining room. There were never less than 10 and sometimes upwards nigh onto 25 guests surrounding our table. On more than one occasion our table, with all the leaves set in, was extended into the living room. The majority in attendance were family but it was also our habit to invite those friends and acquaintances who for what ever reason had no place to partake of Thanksgiving.
For the last 5 years, with our children scattered hither and yon, and with the Friday following Thanksgiving often a work day for many, family gatherings here at the homestead on Thanksgiving areno more. Now my wife and I are the dispossessed, so-to-speak, and become the invitees of friends rather than the hosts.
Of late we have been part of a large international/ family celebration which takes place at a good friend's home and in addition to us and their immediate family is attended by an ecumenical contingent of other modern orphans of circumstance. This year's celebration just past was attended by representatives from France, Spain, Japan, Korea, Belarus, Iran, China, Canada, Holland and of course US born folks. Nearly thirty, if not more, people came together in thanks for our blessings.
The tradition has been carried on but the venue, food and faces change.
One of the inviolable traditions that my wife and I have followed is that Christmas, particularly Christmas day, will be celebrated in whatever place we and our children call home. This year will be the first year where that home will not be ours for the majority of our family.
Since our oldest grandchild is 15, the baton could have been passed long before now, but the 2500 mile distance between our home on the Canadian border and theirs, nearly on the Mexican border, has prevented us from celebrating Christmas together. In fact, regrettably, we have never celebrated Christmas morning with our 2 oldest grandchildren; more's the pity. So our home has remained the seat for family Christmas' observance for these past 43 years, 35 in this abode alone. Our oldest and youngest children usually made it home as well as various brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, boyfriends and girlfriends and found something under our tree for them come Christmas morning.
Our youngest is a father now, his daughter turned 1 year old in Oct. They live five hours from us through two snow belts. With the 25th of Dec. falling on a weekend this year, my wife and I, God willing and the snow's not too high, we will spend Christmas morning with our new grand daughter in her home; as it should be.
And that's how things change as traditions are passed along.