Katie Did and Katie Does
#Resound11: Traditions
Categories: #Resound11

Prompt 18 – Traditions: This is the time of year when families are upholding decades old traditions and working to create new ones. It doesn’t matter what you celebrate (or don’t) … please share with us your December traditions: how they got started, why you continue them, and why they are special to you.

There are a few December traditions in my life that are important to me, as well as a few new ones that I’d love to start incorporating annually:

Old Traditions:

Christmas Tree hunting – My parents got married, they started the tradition of chopping down our own Christmas tree. To this day, we–my immediately family and our own families–still go hunting through the woods for our Christmas trees, and we make a whole day of it, including breakfast, lunch and an ornament exchange. It’s a beloved day, and something we can count on each year that we will have with one another. It’s become such a special tradition because of the excitement it embodies for the season, as it’s our official kickoff, as well as knowing no matter how busy we get with life, some things will always hold true.

St. Nicholas Day (December 6) – Growing up, my parents had us lay out one shoe outside our closed bedroom doors on the night of December 5.  Upon waking up in the morning, we would be greeted with two gifts in our shoes left by “St. Nick”: one ornament for the tree (something that always represented a part of us, be it an activity we enjoyed, an experience we had, or something that showcases part of our personality) and one small item for simple pleasure. I always thought this was such a cute and enjoyable prelude leading up to Christmas. Although I haven’t left out my shoe in years, my parents still give each of us an ornament, but now it’s given before we head out for our Christmas trees. That ornament is a simple thing that we all look forward to, each one marking a new year in our lives.

Wagilia (December 24) – On Christmas Eve, we celebrate a Polish tradition that has always been celebrated within my father’s family. Wagilia (pronounced “Vig-e-lia”) is a peasant, meatless meal that is a several-course feast. My family has always encompassed four main traditions within this meal that never change:

    1. We start the meal with oplatki, which are Christmas wafers. We break bread with each other exchanging our wishes for one another for a healthy and happy New Year. Breaking of the bread always starts with the heads of the family. Today, it’s my father and uncle–as both of my grandparents are no longer with us–who kick off this tradition. Oplatki, although based in Catholicism, is actually quite a beautiful tradition, as it provides a widely accepted means for telling one another how much you love each other and what that person means to you. Likewise, you hear from your loved ones what you mean to them. No other opportunity like this presents itself throughout the year where we can be so free and open with our feelings for each other. It’s a truly wonderful thing when you can let your heart be heard and when you can hear what’s inside others’ hearts as well.
    2. There must be an odd number of courses served. If one course is introduced to the meal, we must add another course to keep an odd number of dishes. For the last several years, we have five coures: mushroom soup, barley and prunes, sauerkraut, fish, and pierogies, in that exact order.
    3. A small bunch of hay is placed underneath the tablecloth to pay homage to the manger.
    4. An extra place is always set at the table (or in the kitchen) for an unexpected guest that may arrive. The “unexpected guest” is actually symbolic of Jesus and his arrival on earth. In years past, however, we’ve actually had people stop by on Christmas Eve unexpectedly who have sat down at this extra place setting.

There aren’t any other traditions my family embraces throughout the year that are similar to Wagilia. Yes, it’s involved and rigid in some of the traditions, but it’s an extraordinary night and special to all of us. Passed down from generation to generation, it wouldn’t be Christmas–or December–without it, and I can’t imagine ever parting with it.

New Traditions:

Reverb/Resound – I am a big believer on the importance of reflection, and have really come to enjoy developing a consistent writing practice. I look forward to continuing this new tradition–attempted in 2010, sought through in 2011–each year.

Holiday performance – I grew up playing and being surrounded by music. I love the holidays, and holiday music for that matter. I would love to start incorporating a new tradition of taking in some sort of holiday performance, be it the Holiday Pops, seeing the Rockettes, watching the Nutcracker, or some other concert that inspires good cheer and the holiday spirit.

Giving back – Since getting involved in You and Who, I realize how much I love giving back to others. Afterall, December is the season of giving, and how better to do that than to give to those in need. Whether it’s clothing, food, or warmth, helping provide basic human needs to those that lack them is both rewarding and fulfilling. Nothing offers a greater feeling than knowing you’ve helped your fellow man.

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