When our Sociology class was assigned to write about family traditions, I instantly became nervous because I couldn’t think of one tradition off the top of my head that was special and unique to my family. I sat there and wondered, should I tell the truth and reveal the fact that my family doesn’t have any traditions? Should I make one up and fake my way through the entire thing just to get a good grade? Should I take someone else’s family tradition and call it my own? As you can probably tell, I was completely stuck. I feel as though my family traditions are ones that are shared with other families around the world. The typical family traditions that I’m referring to are about are during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. During Thanksgiving, we always have our annual family dinner down at my grandmother’s house. All the women of the family cook different dishes such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, etc. The women usually sit around the dinner table while the men of the family assemble in the living room and watch TV, typically football. The children of the family usually sit at a separate table and after they are done, they usually go outside to play. Christmas traditions and the traditions of Thanksgiving are much in the same.
Occasionally after everyone gets their stomachs full, we usually play a game called “catch phrase.” There is never a dull moment when we play this game. It is similar to charades in which you hold a device that shows you a word that you must describe to your teammates without saying the word directly. When I was assigned this essay, I went to my mother, hoping that we had a tradition that I just overlooked. Needless to say, I was back at square one, she couldn’t think of any that were unique! I began to look to my peers for help, which resulted in the usual, “Just say something obvious, like, ‘On the twenty-fifth day of December, my family opens presents that are left underneath an artificial tree by an obese man who has some strange obsession with red clothes and non-existent animals who can fly’!” That wasn’t much help either. In comparison to the traditional Caucasian holiday traditions, I researched via internet on the African American holiday traditions. A common statement that I found was that “Today’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are just a taste of how African Americans used to eat.” Before you slice into that sweet potato pie, douse those greens in hot sauce or cut a corner of macaroni and cheese this holiday season, consider where those traditions came from.
In the late 19th century, geography factored in how people celebrated the yuletide season. During this time, African Americans lived mostly a rural existence, which translated into a farm-to-table lifestyle. I found a blog of two sisters discussing their African American culture during the holiday seasons. Sisters Norma Jean and Carole Darden discussed their history and recipes in recounting African-American life and culture. Their grandmother’s traditions were passed down to them in which they will pass them down to their children and so on. She lived on a dairy farm and wanted milk and cream in the family’s dishes. A favorite dish was painted Christmas cookies, made with rose water and orange-flower water. Norma will be preparing Thanksgiving dinner for her family in November. She’s been cooking since age 9. Her dinner table will have turkey with corn bread dressing on the side, many quarts of giblet gravy, whole cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. But in homage to her stepfather, she’ll make smoked oysters for an appetizer, corn and peas as a side dish as well as yams in a cast-iron pot, without marshmallows.
Just as he taught her. We live in an age in which it is hard to spend time together as a family. Many families today wonder if having quality time together is a thing of the past. We are inordinately busy, for one thing, whether household bread-winners or college students. Also, the definition of family has changed. We are dealing with new definitions and characterizations of the idea of family. Some of us have traditional families. Some families have divorced, single, and/or remarried parents, creating a rather confusing family tree. Some people choose to live their lives alone, but may still be close enough to some friends to consider them family. Whatever the circumstances, many of us honestly don’t know how to celebrate together. We may even see the word “tradition” as something dulling and old, having no meaning for or application to us personally; something usually being forced upon us. It is up to us to create new family traditions. Celebrating is not hard. We all know about celebrating and have some ways of doing it. The only challenge is to find new ways. Why do we need to celebrate tradition? It gives us something to look forward to and makes a formal statement that there are some things in life to be grateful for.
The notion of honoring tradition is unsettling for some people; let alone creating new ones. We seem to think that traditions must be heavy and complex ideas that had been around for hundreds of years and will be around for a hundred more. In my opinion, this is not true. It need not be big or religious at all. I believe a tradition is something that you do once that feels good, so you do it again and again. Tradition is in all our lives in one way or another. Without participation in such activities there would be no family bond or pride. Being involved in these activities brings people closer and makes us understand who we are. Everything we do and every day of our lives we take part in a tradition in one form or another. After writing this paper, I realize that my family traditions may not be unique to others, but they are special to me and the members of my family and that is something that I will always cherish and hope to pass down to future generations.