“The most important property of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships” – Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
Traditions have a way of organizing and chronicling time. These moments connect us to the past and present, help us to look forward to the future, and tie us to family and friends in ways that create tight and lasting memories. Whether its midnight mass on Christmas Eve, a toast or a prayer said before mealtime, an annual holiday party or shopping trip, or travel, traditions can bring a sense of comfort during the busy holiday season, a time that is often also met with stress. Meaningful connections with others are protectors against such stress, and annual traditions have a way of strengthening our connections with others. This year, and in particular this holiday season, is filled with new experiences and opportunities for us to make connections with others and explore different traditions. But because so much is new, all the more important to hang on to some of our most special family traditions and stay connected to family back home.
We were kindly invited to two Thanksgiving dinners at friend’s homes in November, and I can’t tell you the nostalgia I felt while eating turkey and stuffing. Even the conversations at the table felt similar to those in years past that we’ve had while sitting and talking long after the food had been served. And since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, there were lots of familiar traditions and dishes at both homes despite us being so far away. We, of course, brought Jack’s garlic mashed potatoes as a side and fought with the boys to take two bites of turkey. Given my kids dislike for the taste of turkey and the fact that they had it on their plate at school on Thanksgiving day, we opted for pizza at #Motorino in Wan Chai to celebrate that night as a family. It’s the best we’ve tried in Hong Kong so far, not to mention their wine list. We were all happy to add pizza to the list of foods to be enjoyed during the month of November.
Thanksgiving weekend ended with our annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree, which this year was purchased at our neighborhood grocery store. Considering we are amongst palm trees, they offered a good price on a Nordman fir, which apparently is a pretty common type of tree offered in China this time of year, plus it came with a stand and free delivery! When you live in Hong Kong, most things are delivered at a small cost, so free delivery is like hitting the jackpot. So did we take them up on it? No! They said delivery was three days out and our tree trimming tradition couldn’t wait, so we did the only thing sensible; Jack carried it on his back about a half-mile home. Our tradition of picking out a tree, getting it home, and pulling out the decorations brought out many feelings for me this year, and I noticed the same was true for the kids. I loved pulling out old ornaments that the kids had created over the years, ones Jack and I had collected way back when it was just us living in Boston, and special ones that were gifted to us over the years. And of course, the one or two from when I was a kid that made the long journey with us to Hong Kong that tell me a story each year. Decorating the tree is one of my favorite traditions, but this year it was celebrated with intention, love, and honor.
Some moments are meant to become traditions, but for whatever reason they happen once or twice, never to be recreated except for in a memory. Some carry on as if in harmony with your life because they help define who you are and who you will become. Maybe you’re welcoming someone new to Christmas this year or you’re celebrating and learning about someone else’s holiday traditions. Maybe your yearly traditions bring on more stress than comfort and it’s time for a change. Maybe you’re like us and you’re in a new land altogether. I’d love to hear how you honor old traditions, while welcoming new ones.