At the beginning of the movie Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye proclaims, “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!”
We celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, and I thought about a tradition we had when I was growing up. The tradition was to wear a flower on Mother’s Day–red if your mother was still living and white if she had died. My grandmother and my father both grew roses, so everyone in our family wore a single rose, though others would wear carnations. It was always a joy to select the flowers to wear, as these were frequently the first ones of the season ready to pick.
My husband and I continued the practice early in our marriage–usually with carnations because of our limited budget–but somewhere along the way, this tradition went by the wayside. I think next year I’d like to revive it.
Family reunions used to be traditions, too. My mother’s extended family gathered once every summer for a potluck picnic at a state park near our hometown. What seemed to me as a child to be hundreds of relatives I didn’t know came from great distances to get together. Several picnic tables were loaded with homemade food, and the children played games while the grown-ups caught up on the latest news. My mother always made meatloaf, baked beans, and her famous chocolate cake. Even though there were many aunts and uncles and cousins who were strangers to me, I looked forward to that Sunday afternoon, and I was delighted as a newlywed to bring my husband and introduce him. Alas, when my grandfather died, no one took up the task of organizing the event and this tradition died.
Family traditions serve as reminders of the past. They honor our ancestors and help our children stay connected to their roots. In the Bible, God commanded the Israelites to use stones to memorialize God’s faithfulness: “In the future when children ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ the children should be told that Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. The Lord your God dried up the Jordan ahead of you until you had crossed, as he did to the Red Sea until we had crossed. The Lord did this so that everyone in the world would know his mighty power and that you would fear the Lord your God every day of your life” (Joshua 4: 21-24, GW).
What family traditions have been abandoned that you miss? Do you have any “memorial stones” to remind your children of God’s faithfulness? I’d love to hear about them.