What’s the point of having traditions? Why are they so important to us? It’s certainly not a logical thing. But at a gut level, we know when they’re important to us.
Growing up with a German mom, we had some beautiful Christmas traditions. For me, the highlight was the Christmas tree. The ornaments were simple. Red and silver glass balls. Delicate, shiny, beautiful. Lead icicles that were placed individually on the branches of the tree. (Nope, we don’t use those any more—but they hung beautifully.) Slender red candles, placed in special holders—again individually placed on the tree branches. A star at the top. The tree stand was an antique from Germany, with raised figures around the base, it turned the tree and was also a music box.
On Christmas Eve, my brothers and I had to wait upstairs while my parents decorated the tree. Those hours felt like days. After supper, we’d go to church for the Christmas Eve service, and when we came home, we’d have to go back upstairs. And wait. And wait. After what seemed like hours, my mom would ring a little bell, and we could go downstairs. And there it was. The Christmas tree, beautifully decorated, rotating slowly, the music box playing, and the candles on the tree were all lit. Yep. Real candles, the kind with small flames and slowly melting wax. Beautiful. Magical.
I know that this image might provoke anxiety, because of the combustable nature of Christmas trees. I was blissfully ignorant of all that. My parents never seemed reckless to me, so I assumed this was safe. And, the tree was carefully selected to have widely spaced, open branches, so that the candles could be placed without any branches above them.
Nowadays, I don’t light the candles on the tree. As a concession to safety, I hang hand-dipped pairs of candles. As a nod to tradition, I have a small collection of brass Christmas tree candle holders.
It’s tradition, not just because it’s beautiful. It’s tradition, and it’s important, because it draws us together. In a very special way, it brings to mind my parents, my brothers, my grandmother.
I remember our pathetic attempts to sing Silent Night and stay on key. (Yikes—we sounded so bad!) I remember my mother’s story about the family Christmas tree in Germany. And that’s where the bell came from—or at least I think it did. My adult children can each tell you why I have hanging candles on the tree, and at least the oldest one still remembers the real candles actually lit on the tree—or at least I think she does.
Traditions like this connect us with people we love, with our past, with good memories, and not so good memories, with who we’ve been and who we’d like to become.
My wish for you as we celebrate holidays, and look forward to a new year, is that you find special moments to connect with loved ones, good memories, and good hopes for the new year. Moments of love, peace and joy, and hope.
We only have one more Tuesday online Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson this year. And one more tradition: this time of year I like to share one of my favorite lessons, because it reminds me of candles. I hope you’ll join me.
Happy Holidays, y’all!