Family traditions. They hold meaning for each of us for different reasons. Often times they are a way to celebrate our family’s history, recall memories of years past, or perhaps remember a loved one. Traditions are built over years and sometimes generations.
Since I was young, I have been interested in learning more about my ancestors. I talked to family members, created a family tree, and even visited the National Archives to find documentation of my family’s immigration to America. Even more than their names and their journey, I yearn to know their stories. What was daily life like for them? How did they live and what do others remember most about them?
Both sides of my family descend from European origins, primarily Portuguese, Italian, and Hungarian. I have found that many of the traditions that have been passed down revolve around extended family getting together for holidays and birthdays and sharing large meals with special foods. I am thankful that many of those recipes have been carried on, and I will share them with my children when they are older.
How my family traditions shaped me
Some of my fondest childhood memories are when we were able to spend time with my extended family. Living in Texas, away from all other family, sometimes it was one or two years between visits with relatives. We made the most of our time together, and I remember lots of happiness and laughter.
On my mom’s side, we enjoyed delicious Portuguese cuisine. Since most of her family still lives in Portugal, I was exposed to a way of life different than what I was accustomed to. I got to feed cattle, hoe potatoes, and shuck corn with my grandfather and uncles. Many of my childhood birthdays were celebrated there, complete with crazy dance parties in the driveway and my favorite foods. The summers I spent there are a huge part of who I am today.
We saw my dad’s side of the family most often at Thanksgiving. We always met at the same house and my cousins and I sat at the kid’s table in the living room. After enjoying all the traditional Thanksgiving foods, we went for a long walk around the neighborhood and I listened to my grandpa, dad, and aunts reminisce about growing up there. The evenings were filled with laughter and an overly competitive round of the game Spoons (or Spoonikins, as it’s now known in my family, but that’s a story for another day).
These times grounded me and gave me something to look forward to during the times we were apart. I still smile thinking about the fun I had and how things seemed simpler back then. Maybe it’s because I’m an adult now, or maybe it’s because the world seems to be such a different place than it was back then.
Carrying the traditions forward
Family traditions are not only unique, but they are ever-evolving. As families come together and merge, new traditions are created and old ones are passed on.
Now that I have a family of my own, I find myself in a similar situation to my parents. We have no extended family here, so it is up to my husband and me to share our family traditions and create new ones with our children. I am grateful that the technology we have today allows us to remain close even when our loved ones are far away.
Last year we decided to stay home for the holidays. On Thanksgiving, we relaxed all day and had our neighbors over for dinner. Perhaps this will become a new tradition. We were fortunate that our families could travel to us for Christmas. As tradition holds, we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (something my husband’s family always did), and we enjoyed a huge lunch of pasta and meatballs on Christmas Day (a nod to my Italian family history).
As the years go on, I know that we will make our own special memories with our children and those memories may someday become traditions they pass on to their families. I hope I can continue the heritage my ancestors created while crafting the story that will one day be my own legacy.