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"We Always..."

You can have them during the year but the holidays are known for it. What am I talking about? In the words of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “TRADITIONS!”

(Fiddler on the Roof music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, book by Joseph Stein)

“You may ask, how did this tradition start? I'll tell you - I don't know. But it's a tradition...”Tevye-Fiddler on the Roof

In the song, Traditions from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye asks, “How do traditions start?” He tells us that he does not know but then shakes his head and declares that Tradition is a binding law governing everything we repeatedly do.

I’ll answer Tevye’s question.

Traditions: When you do something once and then the kids remind you the next year that you forgot to do it and need to do it because... “It’s tradition.”

A little dramatic? Yes. Very far off the mark? No.

For example, one year, you put an elf on a shelf, and 40 years later, you are still trying to find new and fun ways to sit this elf on a shelf as you secretly plan his demise. Whether your children live at home with you or come back to visit for the holidays, they will look for the elf with the words, “It's tradition!” ringing throughout the house.

Some traditions get started of desperation. My children had their traditions when it came to opening presents. Every year, at the crack of dawn, our children would drag us out of bed, and presents were opened by 6 am. Maybe not that early, some years. 6:15 and when they were off their game, 6:30. We lived far away from family and rarely had anyone visit us for the holidays and Christmas could feel like an endless day. One year I got the idea we could go to the movies in the afternoon and voila!, a tradition was born.

Tevye does make a point because there are those traditions where the origin story eludes all parties. “When did this start?” “Why do we do this?” we might ask. The answer is simply put, “It’s tradition. It’s what we do. "

“Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

Tevye-Fiddler on the Roof

Traditions can define events like Christmas, birthdays, and other holidays. Traditions can be religious and profound in meaning. Going to church, prayers, and other types of worship can bring order and understanding of who we are and why we are here into our lives. They mark progression as our understanding of these traditions deepens.

Traditions can last through the generations. Not just the holiday traditions but all of our traditions. Even those that are found in the day-to-day routine. Maybe in your family, it’s a tradition to go to the Library on Tuesdays or read to your children before bed. Maybe it’s a tradition to spend some quality time with your older children while the younger ones nap.

In our family, we have a traditional birthday song. It’s one of those traditions that I am unsure how it started. We sing the regular birthday song for the first verse, and the 2nd verse is nothing but the words, "We’re so happy you were bornd- ed", to the tune and beat of the Happy Birthday song. And, because it's us, it is sung in various harmonies by those who can carry a tune. -Which is everyone in my family except me. - It is impossible for the Anderson family to leave the 2nd verse out. Everyone knows it’s coming, and the birthday boy/girl expects to hear it.

Whatever your traditions, they hold power and strength. In the doing, we can ground ourselves in the familiar. Remember the strength of family and friends who gather to honor the same traditions and shared memories. They can help us garner the courage to try something new and become who we are meant to be.

"...Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as a fiddler on the roof!"-Tevye-Fiddler on the Roof

Every year for Christmas, we would roast hotdogs in the fireplace. It was a lovely tradition and one that everyone enjoyed. However, it was a lot of work - for me. And, because of the other things we did on Christmas Eve, we always started the fire late in the evening. And because I could never get myself organized enough to wrap presents early, it meant staying up later getting presents for seven children wrapped.

We had a new house and fireplace the first year we lived in Texas. We had already had a fire with genuine logs, resulting in the paint burning off the inset and a foul smell through the house. It made giving up that tradition easy, but the shockwave was felt. You would have thought we had sold state secrets to an enemy country. Thank heaven my son William married Jamie a few years later, who introduced us to our new Christmas Eve tradition of Papa Murphy’s Pizza for dinner. After some time, the new tradition was embraced, and peace once again reigned in our home.

I believe our family traditions are important. They help us give our children some continuity and great expectations for what will happen during the year.

Traditions help write the “we always” part of our childhood story. For example, when my mom took me for a haircut, we always went for ice cream afterward. What are your "We always..." memories?

Tevye claims that without traditions, our lives would be shaky. We could lose our balance or not find our way. As the musical continues, we see that Tevye’s traditions are questioned as he figures out which ones to keep and which to let go of.

I think a good evaluation of our traditions can be important. In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and everyday life, we can ask ourselves, “What is more work than fun?" What got thrown into the “But mom, it’s our tradition” pile, and what has meaning? What are the We always statements your family wants to make? If we can evaluate those life traditions according to those statements, our traditions can, in the words of Tevye, “keep us from falling off a shaky roof.”


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