January 04, 2009

Just What are Traditions?

" It's good to grab life and let go of some of the traditions of the past, make some new ones, go on an adventure, don't get stuck in a routine as that can stifle the human spirit. Don't let your traditions become obligations."

I saw this on another blog as I wandered around and it just spoke to me. You see this year I didn't do some of our usual traditions. In fact the last few yrs. its been hit or miss depending on the time I had and the mood I was in. My kids mentioned one or two this yr and it got me thinking about our traditions.

When my children were babies, we used to go to my MILs house for an Italian Christmas Eve dinner. We would get there at 5 or so and it would go on for hrs. Dessert was served after midnight and the children were allowed to open one gift since technically it was Christmas Day. Most times when they were really young they fell asleep long before that time. My MIL tho would cook for days and for hrs while we were there. There were many courses and things were cooked when they were needed so she was in the kitchen most of the nite. I don't know how she did it, honestly. Even tho I ended up doing it years later, I really don't know how she made so much food all alone in that tiny kitchen. We couldn't help, there was no room plus she really didn't want anyone in there.

The menu was much more than I made. It was antipasto, shrimp, mussels in marinara sauce, two kinds of pasta with marinara sauce and one with squid in the sauce. There were oysters cracked and shrimp. There were fried zeppoli. There was fennel and olives in between. There was broccoli salad with fried flounder, fried eel, bacala salad, and fried scallops. Then came out the fennel and nuts and such to nibble. Wine flowed, even when the kids got older they got a lil on the bottle of a glass but filled with 7-up.

But this meal ended at midnight and then desserts came out. Mom made Italian cheesecake, there were Italian pastries, and onion pie. We often didn't leave till 3am. I was wiped out by then and I had the kids and had to get up for Christmas morning with them. The next day I did my thing with the kids and my MIL expected us to come back for lasagna. She got mad when we didn't, after all I had to have a day with my family too.

But while that was hard to do and chaos, I miss it cuz I didn't have to do it all! Then my MIL lost her sight due to diabetes. She couldn't see well enough to do all this anymore so my other SIL and I took a holiday to do so she wouldn't have to. Of course I got stuck with Christmas since I wasn't working then, I was home. It used to take me 3 solid days of cooking from morning to nite to be ready for this day. Of course the house had to be perfect too since they were all coming and I had to do my usual Christmas stuff too for the kids. When I look back I don't know how I did it all.

When I moved to CA. it was hard to get some of the things we loved. We used to go to SF a few days before this holiday to shop for the things I needed like breads, cheeses, antipasto items and pastries. And while I enjoyed doing that, it made the rest hard cuz I still had to cook and wrap presents and decorate, etc. Taking this time out was hard on me. Often family flew in for this too. My ex used to get the fish for me and would clean it too so it was ready for me to cook. But over time he stopped doing that. Over time he just flew in with his sister like I was a restaurant. I started to resent this holiday stuff cuz it wasn't my holiday but his familys. As he became more remote from us, this became an ugly holiday for me, doing all this with no help. He used to give me extra money for it and over time that stopped too. Once again, how I managed to produce all this food with the money and time I had.......well I'm amazed as I look back.

Now I left him and am in my own house. The first yr. I traveled to SF and did my usual thing with all the food. I cut back on the amts tho. I started to do that when with my ex still , cuz we always had too much left. Seems tho no matter how much I cut back there's always too much. I hate it. Ive since stopped going to SF now. I used to make a day of it and had a nice lunch and such. I would shop for all the things I needed and then come home exhausted. I miss doing that but I don't miss being so tired from it when I still had tons to do.

Each year now Ive cut back on stuff or eliminated it. Some years we haven't been able to get together on Christmas Eve so I started doing Christmas Day. Since my bfs family does prime rib that day, I do too now. We all love that but its not our usual traditional stuff. So I still make antipasto and crab and shrimp to have before and assorted desserts after. My son mentioned I didn't make the zeppoli the last couple yrs but the last couple yrs we did Christmas Day, so I wouldn't have thought of it.

A couple of years we went to my daughters house but she cant make all this so I had to make it all and bring the whole darn meal over her house. Often I would have my SIL stop by on the way home from work the day before to bring alot of it. My daughter would then make whatever the main part of the meal was that we decided on. We did away with most of the fish stuff and the marinara spaghetti. In its place we had lasagna or chicken parmigiana. But once again I was cooking for days. The only good blessing was she got all those dishes to do alone. Still I did have days of dishes here before that.

And now they mention things missing and I think to myself....when? When are they going to take over? When will I get to be a guest? I'm tired. Now I'm moving away. I spoke to my bfs dad the other day, he wished us a Merry Christmas when they got my pkg. I found out that he made a prime rib too. I said oh great then you can do the cooking when I get up there. I'm thinking gosh, maybe I can actually be a guest now and then. He says to me ........WE will do the cooking , you and me. Sigh.

So when I read that passage up there about traditions becoming ruts and being adventurous it struck something deep in me. How many of us do things because we feel we HAVE TO? Traditions I feel are for continuity but also for pleasure. I haven't really had alot of pleasure for many yrs during the holidays. I think that needs to change. It will be a bit easier for me up in Oregon if its just me and the man. We can make new ones or just keep what we like. Of course if the kids come to visit they will be looking for tradition. But I think its time they do it for themselves.

There are things I still love. I love to put my grammas ornaments on the tree, the first ones each yr. I love to decorate the house this time of yr, it just feels cozier. I love to cook a good meal but perhaps not as much as in the past. When my mom asked me about Christmas eve this yr. I told her , you know, this was never MY holiday, this was my exs familys holiday. Why do I have to keep doing this? I'm not going to anymore, just the parts I like. She agreed. When I was growing up, Christmas eve was me and my brother putting up our tree and mom baking cookies. Christmas day was dinner and family. I don't even remember what mom cooked. Traditions should be fun for all......not an obligation. Yup things are gonna change around here, I'm tired.


mappen said...

Tradition is a Meal that the whole family loves on each christmasday since 23 years. if we would't do it, it wouldn't be christmas.

Mon said...

Agree whole heartedly. Traditions are about connections. If an action is filled with resentment, a feeling of obligation, or there is no longer any soulfulness left in it, then it's an empty tradition.

Christmas, other holidays are not about traditions, but about the stuff that goes on inside the people. If it's just about traditions the people have lost the meaning.

I recently had a solstice where I was unable to do all I had planned, and saw it as a gift. I realised that meaning happened even without doing anything at all.

seanymph said...

Souless, I like that word. Traditions shouldnt be that way. Ive carried them on because of divorce trying to keep my family together. Im moving soon, out of state. My kids are grown and married. Its their turn to carry them on if they want.

I will still hold to some because there are parts I do enjoy. But with a new life comes new traditions. Thank you for that comment, that one word sums it up completely.

Marion said...

My partner and I decided to make our own traditions, when we met. It took a few years for the new ways of celebrating to take hold, but they are serene and peaceful now. Before, I tried to please too many people with their traditions, which, like you, I took on. Resentment followed.

It's really nice now. Good post!

Jewel Atkins said...

I remember the first time I went over to my MIL's house and she had two turkeys, and while we were eating, she announced that one had been stolen, and she felt obliged to cook the evidence. Then she and her family retired after dinner to watch either the Jerry Springer video or the car races. Sigh. I don't eat at the MIL's anymore. We have such better traditions.

You did raise a worthy question about traditions, though, and Mon's response was dead on.
"I recently had a solstice where I was unable to do all I had planned, and saw it as a gift. I realised that meaning happened even without doing anything at all."

Call it a Mary and Martha moment and choose the better half.

coriander said...

Wow, you've been doing a buttload of work! I'd say it's past time for new traditions that don't have you doing the lion's share. New beginnings are nice.

Sandi said...

I think it is so important to have traditions that we enjoy, and not ones we are chained to by obligation. I don't cook a lot, but your recipes sound delicious. I just found your blog and will keep coming back.

Mystery Ranch said...

Hi Pat
Now that my mom died and my "boyfriend" lives on his boat in Mexico and I don't talk to my Fundamentalist half-sister any more and I stopped going to all the Sufi events I used to go to because I can't drive at night anymore.... I have no traditions or people to make them with. Yes, traditions are a bother, but... what would your life look like without them? Yes, I am free to do "what I want", but alone. Thanks for stopping by my blog and being a regular reader. I am going nuts without my computer. I have to go to the stinking public library, wait in line then get my measly hour to do all the stuff I need to do. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Howdy! I could have sworn I've been to this blog before but after checking through some of the post I realized it's new to me. Anyways, I'm definitely glad I found it and I'll be book-marking and checking back often!

Anonymous said...

very good!

Anonymous said...

very good!