Today is a busy day! I’m about to dash out and pick up my niece, who is joining us for the long holiday weekend from college. She’s my pseudo-daughter (as I call her), for I lovingly get to claim her as my own while her parents live overseas and we get to step in for big events in her life where we can; the distance being too great for Mom and Dad to be here as often as they’d like.
Once we get her picked up, my last-minute “to-do” list is packed. Some baking still needs to be completed, some purchases made to ensure our family meals are perfect and I still have not bought our Thanksgiving puzzle. The weekend would be incomplete without it. Yes, as long as I can remember, we did not have a Thanksgiving without a family puzzle to complete. It is the tradition we love to hate.
Somewhere there must be a card table with an insanely difficult puzzle to put together. My Dad was always the one who held court over the table and was the master of the corners and difficult pieces. Sadly, that torch has been passed to my sister, who has somehow inherited his uncanny ability to find “that little piece with the corner of the cat’s nose, the touch of blue sky and the edge of the wicker basket” that has eluded everyone for days.
Over that puzzle, countless conversations come and go. Brothers and sisters catch up on each others’ lives, Grandchildren get one on one time with Nana, cousins learn they have more in common than they thought. The puzzle is an important centerpiece in our family’s Thanksgiving and a tradition I refuse to relinquish.
We have other priceless traditions for this sacred holiday: Aunt Sally’s Pretzel Salad is required; a silly prayer quickly reminds us of our time with cousins at Grandma’s children’s table: “Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Thank God for the Grub;” a late night meal of sandwiches and hot German potato salad, an ode to our ancestral roots. Traditions are what make this holiday about family, gratitude and togetherness.
Traditions are important in every family; they are the glue that holds families together. In good times, traditions heighten the joy and bring a certain magic to the everyday routine of our lives. In the rough and rocky patches, those same traditions bring the comfort and stability we need to know that everything can be alright.
Family traditions define who we are. They give us a sense of purpose and identity. Some traditions are steeped in the rich history of our culture and ancestry, bringing family recipes, dances and stories to life when generations gather. Other traditions bring a rhythm and routine to our lives, providing much-needed balance and grounding to an otherwise harried life.
Traditions teach us all the bond of family, bridging the gap from one generation to the next. Whether it is putting a puzzle together, baking, going on an early post-Thanksgiving morning Christmas tree cutting adventure or whatever your family shares, it allows everyone to put away the distractions of the day and be together. Laughter and conversation replaces texting and surfing the net; the intimacy that traditions can create are much-needed in today’s impersonal digital world.
Make time this Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate your family’s traditions. Celebrate the importance of the traditions of your family and don’t overlook the rich history you can pass from one generation to the next. For in celebrating your traditions, you are filling your holiday with love, laughter and a stronger family bond.