Reflection by Mary Lou Edgar for January 15, 2023
In our family we celebrate non-stop from Halloween until President’s Day. While that may sound extreme to many of you, we have birthdays, days when people entered our family, and the traditional events such as Thanksgiving, New Years, and of course Christmas.
Each year as I near the end of this parade of occasions, I feel a bit overwhelmed. But as I look back and see the importance of what we do as a family, I am incredibly grateful.
We are a distinctive family. When my husband and I married, we joined the traditions that were familiar to us. As our family grew, we introduced new traditions that were more descriptive of us. Three of our five children came to us through adoption. Two of them are culturally different. We needed to introduce traditions from their cultures and make them part of our family’s traditions. One of our children came as a teen after living various places. We asked him what traditions (such as food on holidays) were important to him and we integrated them into our family celebrations as well.
What is tradition?
Most of us have seen Fiddler on the Roof and can remember the song. To me, that song emphasizes how important tradition is in some families. Traditions are ideas and beliefs passed down from one generation to the next. They are not rules, but rather guidelines. Each family within a culture can have its own unique traditions while sharing other common ones. Most of our family traditions are enjoyable (when not interrupted by normal family disputes) and most of them also focus on our faith as well as our history.
For example, on birthdays, we sing Happy Birthday but follow it with Thank You Lord for Giving us (Name). We have two December birthdays, one January birthday, and two February birthdays. We also have one adoption (Gotcha Day) anniversary.
On Thanksgiving we make sure to donate food and other items to those less fortunate than we are. That engenders a discussion of the area where I was raised which is very poor.
Christmas is a flurry of cooking, baking, lots of storytelling and sharing what we made. We light an Advent Wreath – we only have had one fire that I can remember. We tell the story of the holy family and the birth of Jesus. We have many Nativities from around the world and they each have their own story. I have one set where the baby Jesus can be removed from the manger and held by either Mary or Joseph. My children would compete each day to move that baby somewhere in the house so I would have to look for it. We were a little ahead of the Elf on the Shelf. I finally decided I would put it away and get it out on Christmas Eve. Even our grandchildren love it.
The Benefit of Traditions
Although each of these experiences was fun, it was also a way to connect with our families of origin while celebrating the family we were creating.
It is also a way to connect with our faith and make it part of our daily living. It connects us with the family of God. We have children who were not born to us and we celebrate who they are with art, music, and best of all, food. We really get scolded if we miss something.
I invite you to examine your own traditions and if you don’t have any, create some. Enjoy them while you can because, as your children grow and move on, they create their own traditions. Some will involve those you cherish, some won’t.
Be sure to celebrate new traditions as well as remembering older ones. Traditions are a way to celebrate one family while celebrating and creating another family. They are part of helping us remember who we are while also connecting us to others and helping us move forward.
Now I command you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”
—1 Corinthians 11:2
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lou Edgar, MSS, is a clinical social worker who founded A Better Chance for Our Children, an adoption and foster care agency that works to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Mary Lou was the Executive Director of ABCFOC, but she is now retired. She graduated from Neumann University and Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research. She and her husband joined SsAM in 2021.