Traditions are so important. They link our ancestors to ourselves and to our offspring, forming a continuum between the past and the future, in the present. (Examples: naming children after dead relatives or giving your son a number or Roman numeral after his names, as in Reginald Percival Beancurd the Third or Pope John XI.) They help us to celebrate life cycle events in meaningful ways. (Think of weddings, with gift registries at the couples' favorite stores!) They help create wonderful memories, although I can't recall any at the moment, and they support numerous commercial enterprises that would otherwise go bust and add to the multitudes of unemployed workers. Thus we feel almost virtuous when we buy Hallmark cards and Whitman's chocolates for Valentine's Day.
As residents of our respective countries, we share numerous traditions with our countrymen and women and even with city folk. Examples include tacky lights Christmas tours and overspending in December, whether or not we celebrate any holiday, and St. Patrick's Day over-consumption of green beer and green bagels for us United States of Americans.
In addition, each family develops its own traditions and rituals that make holidays and events special and make it almost impossible for two people with different parents to live together and maintain relationships without guilt and heartache.
I, myself, remain firm in my commitment to carrying on the tradition of Christmas, New York Jewish style. Therefore, this year, my son and I ate Dim Sum at my favorite local Chinese restaurant, along with thousands of other Jews, most of whom looked Chinese, but these days, you can't tell what anybody is by looking at them, so they were probably all adopted. Then we went on to the movies, where all the other Jewish people in town found themselves on this very special day. And, of course, you know that there are African-American Jews, many of whom showed up to see "Black Swan." We are all fans of Natalie Portman -- one of our own -- although she is neither black nor Chinese.
In a few days, my family will celebrate ChristmaHanaKwanzaa to honor the different cultures, races, religions, and ethnicities of our family members, although nothing we do actually has anything much to do with the typical holiday religious rituals. We do exchange gifts, however. And overeat Christmas cookies and potato pancakes (a.k.a. latkes). We also sing some carols. And show tunes.
For New Years, my family tradition has morphed into something completely our own. My son will be out partying with friends. I will prepare hot chocolate and a huge bowl of popcorn, which I will enjoy as my husband gives me that "why are you eating all that unhealthful stuff?" look. We'll probably watch a movie together and hit the hay well before the clock strikes twelve.
Sound pathetic? Actually, a good night's sleep sounds to me like a great way to start 2011.
Wishing you all a wonderful year!