This year I was reminded of the power of tradition when my daughter, Lauren, was looking for the turkey-shaped candleholder that we "needed" to put on the Thanksgivingtable. This candleholder is special in no other way than that it has been on our table for all the Thanksgivings I can remember. On our table, too, will always be stuffing from the recipe of the children's grandmother Carolyn. And for as long as I am at the table, there will be a short prayer of thanksgiving; I'm grateful most for the ability to see the things that we can be grateful for.
In good or bad times, the holidays can be intense periods in peoples' lives. The holidays can create all kinds of expectations, often fueled by commercial interest, some by family pressures. Regardless of the elements that surround one's holiday, there is a powerful and comforting role that tradition can play. There is something grounding in the familiarity and continuity that traditions bring to a family. More are present around the holidays, but in many families there are regular practices that give strength to the fabric of that family.
Years ago, after spending every Christmas with my family in South Dakota, we spent our first Christmas in California. My mother, who had been the center of the family, was no longer living, and it seemed like the right time to make the change. Many of the traditions of that first year were what might be considered recycled. That year, I yearned to see the Black Hills turn white beneath a blanket of snow. But that would not be, so that Christmas was drenched in Dakota tradition - the menus, the parties and the decorations. Fake snow on the windows and a sympathetic husband helped, but it was celebrating in ways that were familiar to all of us that made this transition easier.
Many of the most precious traditions cost very little or nothing, important in these challenging economic times. Some families take walks before or after dinner, get together with the same friends, or as a family perform acts of charity. Tradition does not draw its power from a price tag, but from the sense of continuity that can come from something as small as a 23-year-old daughter who remembers a turkey-shaped candleholder for the Thanksgiving table.