Monday, December 5, 2011


How's my mental health today?


I find myself in a contemplative and reflective mood today.

We're in the middle of the Advent season - a time that stirs up many memories. Memories of family traditions; some lost, dwindling; many cherished, others not so much. Traditions dripping with meaning and value. Traditions that have been rendered meaningless. Traditions brimming with emotions, both happy and sad. And regrettably, the holes left by the erosion and absence of traditions.

The first Sunday of Advent marked the day our mother began singing Christmas carols with us (when we were kids). We began with German songs and as we learned English ones they were added to the family repertoire. When supper was done the dishes were cleared off the table and stacked on the kitchen counter, an Angel Chimes was placed on the table, up to 4 candles were lit depending on which week of Advent we were in, the lights were turned off, and we began to sing. In my adolescent years I began to chafe at this family tradition, mostly because our mother took great pride in teaching us every verse that had ever been written for each song and we had to go through them all before the singing was done.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, each involved a family tradition routine. Music was a significant part of our Christmas tradition as well as maintaining a focus on the Christmas story as found in Luke 2.

Years later many of those traditions have fallen to the wayside. We`ve all grown up, moved on with our own lives, and had our own families. For many years we tried to pass some of the traditions on to our own kids. We made a point of getting together as a 3 generational family at the beginning of Advent to continue the carol singing - although the singing was much shorter than when my siblings and I were kids.

Things have changed. I went through a divorce and remarriage. My kids lived in another province with their mother for five years. Getting them together with their aunts, uncles and cousins Christmas time became a biannual event. Traditions began eroding. I remarried and became part of a blended family. We were never able to establish our own family Christmas tradition because our kids each now had two sets of parents and four sets of grandparents. Traditions took a back seat to the challenge of scheduling a time when we could all get together.

Our kids have grown up. They all have their own homes. They have their own busy lives, their own unique interests. We no longer seem to have the richness of  common deeply ingrained family traditions to celebrate and share together that I grew up with.

Sometimes it feels like a personal failure on my part.

Heidi and  I have been fortunate to have had a smorgasbord of wonderful Christmas experiences with our kids and families, especially with two young people that became part of our family when they lived with us.

Nevertheless, I regret my inability to develop those special traditions for my kids.

I mourn the loss of the traditions I held dear.

What an enormous magnifier is tradition! 
How a thing grows in the human memory and in the 
human imagination, when love, worship, and all that lies 
in the human heart, is there to encourage it.   
- Thomas Carlyle

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