Holiday Traditions Connect Family Generations

Memories unfold as I unwrap each ornament before hanging it on our Christmas tree. A little felt mouse in an embroidered stocking came from my grandmother, one of several ornaments she made. Many are from my childhood, given to me by a close family friend. This thoughtful woman gave my sister and me ornaments every year for several Christmases when we were young, seeding our own collections. These decorations traveled carefully packed in a shoebox from my parents’ house to my own first home.

My husband and I then filled in the bare branches. We purchased ornaments during our travels, something to represent our current home state or a special event from the year before. We have our Baby’s First Christmas ornament, which waited a year to be hung thanks to Collin’s steadfast refusal to be born on schedule.

Ever since, Collin’s dad and I have purchased annually an ornament for our son that reflects a current interest or something special. These simple decorations provide colorful snapshots of Collin’s interests and mark his growth through the years.

A handful of decorations make me pause every year. I search for spots that ensure high visibility for the Irish bell and miniature Marine Corps figurines, for example. A prime position, however, is reserved for a treasured ornament from my childhood: a prism.

My parents’ tree is full of colorful prisms that fracture a beam of sunlight and throw a rainbow of color on the walls and rug. As a child, I was hyperaware that my friends’ trees weren’t decorated that way. Their branches weren’t adorned with a number of crystal ornaments. Now I appreciate the difference that made my childhood holiday tree uniquely ours. And as I hang my prism at the top, close to a light that will show it off, I feel connected to my parents.

Food is another integral part of holiday celebrations. Special recipes often become regular, expected dishes at the table. Carolina Parent asked chefs from restaurants around the Triangle what dish makes the holiday special for their families. Many were passed down from parents or even grandparents. Whether a side, main dish, dessert or beverage, we think you will find something in our collection that might become a new tradition for your family (page 40  and online).

Holiday traditions can connect the generations of a family; the prism on my family’s tree is from a branch off my parents’ own. Whenever I see it, I think of my mom and dad and the many Christmases we shared.

Traditions also provide a comforting constant from year to year. As our world changes in ways big and small, traditions provide a sense of security and belonging. Wherever my family’s tree glows – and we’ve decorated one on both sides of the country – its decorations tell our family’s story and help us remember good times together.

From everyone at Carolina Parent, we wish you a warm and wonderful holiday season, one filled with special traditions, old and new.

Crickett Gibbons