I am sure you are familiar with the old Hank Williams Jr. song, ‘It’s a family tradition’. When we first moved to the USA, we left all our relations behind and along with them went our wider family traditions. It was like crossing a huge bridge. Everything we knew, along with our personal and family identities, were left on one side of the bridge. On the other side of the bridge was a new culture, different traditions and people who knew nothing about us but what they saw standing in front of them. It was really hard.
The thing we most needed at that time was to feel that we belonged somewhere and that we had some common ground with other people. Fortunately, there was a New Zealand family that had moved to Nashville two years before us who quickly took us under their wing, along with a very nurturing American family. They included us in all their traditional family gatherings such as Thanksgivings, Easters, Christmases and birthdays. We even got invited to family reunions. We soon became an integral part of their lives as they did ours, and it felt good to be so graciously accepted and genuinely loved.
It didn’t take us long to realize that if we felt so lost when we first came to this country, then others might feel the same. Christmas was particularly heart wrenching so we started a new tradition. On Christmas afternoon we invited all the foreigners we knew to our home for a dessert evening. It became such an event that we began staging ‘alien’ parties (our Green Cards stated ‘Resident Alien’) several times a year. It was a way to get like-minded folks together to talk about stuff we knew about, and to eat the foods that we were familiar with. After 18 years we are still holding the alien parties for whoever wants to come. After several years of attending our friends’ traditional celebrations, our kids suggested that we needed to start recreating our own. And so we did.
Times of celebration are not the only traditions we create. There are vacations away for the summer, gathering together to watch major sporting events, tail gate parties, picking a Christmas tree, putting up the decorations, and many more. If we were to think back to our favorite memories as children and teens, I am sure we could make a long list of rituals and traditions that are special to us.
Gathering together for whatever reason, even at funerals, is a time to re-connect with relations and friends and to confirm our place amongst them. We have a tradition now of traveling to New Zealand and Australia every year to visit our loved ones. It is always a very special time because we can physically reach out and hug them, share loving thoughts as well as confirming our commitment to them even though we are so far from home.
What are your family traditions? What benefits do you see in being together to celebrate? Is it time to create some new traditions that your children can carry on through the generations? We would like to wish you a very joyful Christmas and a prosperous, safe New Year.