FEATURE - December 2019
The Importance of Creating Your Own Traditions
by Emilie Jackson
Here we are, at that special time of year, when Holiday cheer is contagious for some and depressing for others. While for a lot of people, sliding into Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays brings joy and excitement for others this time of the year can bring stress and anxiety. Although everyone can agree the magic of the Holidays was never about gifts, but rather a celebration of life and family; over the last twenty years and especially over the last decade it is harder to tune out the ads and social pressure of buying gifts over family time.
We all want a good deal on a purchase, but at what sacrifice to our soul and culture? For me who has been living abroad for over 15 years, the Holiday Season brings mixed feelings.
Being away from my family and my culture have brought nostalgia to its celebration.
Since I was a child, I have been curious in learning about traditions and cultures around the world. I had the chance to travel in many countries and this opened my horizon to experience different customs and habits. After College, I decided to live abroad so I could be in full immersion and experience new cultures through a different angle than just vacationing. One thing that I really like about living abroad is the insights you gain into another culture. Once you understand the nuances behind a culture, you begin to understand its meaning to the people who come from there. You may read or hear about another country but learning to interact successfully is key. This experience doesn’t come with great sacrifice though. You leave behind your family; your friends and you often lose your bearings.
When I moved to Mexico and then to the United States, I experienced a real culture shock in both countries. The first things that really impacted me when living in another country other than the language barriers are simple things like going to the grocery store. I always say that to introduce someone to a new culture, start with food. While both of those countries celebrate Christmas, the way to celebrate this holiday is very different than we do in France. And the food is a big part of it.
When living in the United States, I felt a real connection with Thanksgiving traditions. In some regards and through my very own lens, this holiday felt more family oriented and more spiritual than Christmas in the United States for me. Thanksgiving seemed to be more about sharing a good home-made meal with your family and your friends and being thankful for where you are at in life. In some ways, Thanksgiving felt more like Christmas In France (at least in my family) where everything revolves around family, friends and food. Gifts are also present, but they are not the focus of the celebration.
Having this experience abroad made me think about my own identity, of who I am at the core. After living in different countries, I had to go back to my roots and ask myself what I wanted to keep from the old me the one that left France 15 years ago and the one I have become. I had to redefine simple concepts like “home” and “holiday traditions”.
To tell you the truth, you do not need to travel the world to create your own holiday traditions you can do that at any time. Since life is not a constant, these traditions may evolve with time, new additions or changes in your family. Below are some examples on how I re-created my own.
A story behind each ornament: this tradition comes from my husband’s family. During his childhood, his mother started to purchase an ornament wherever they were going on vacation for him and his sister. When I moved in with my husband and we decorated our first tree together he showed me the ornaments and told me the story of each one. I liked this so much that we decided to pursue this tradition and buy or create an ornament that represents a place we’ve been together.
A culinary experience into my holidays: in France and in Mexico, Christmas Eve is the most important day of celebration of the Holidays. Every year I prepare the typical French dishes that I use to have with my family in France to celebrate the occasion. Because in the US, Christmas day is more important, we eat the traditional meal from New Mexico where my husband is from.
When starting the process of creating your own Holiday rituals, you might want to ask
yourself the following questions:
What would you like to keep or leave from the past?
Are there any cultural rituals or ceremonies you may be drawn to, that you did or did not grow up with?
If you have a spouse/partner/boyfriend and/or kids, ask them for input.
Think about what you’ve seen around you, at a friend’s house or in movies, is there anything you would like to integrate into your ritual?
Remember it’s okay to break the mold and do different and unique things.
It can often feel like a lot of pressure to participate in rituals and traditions that don’t feel fulfilling or meaningful for you during the holiday season. The idea of creating your own ceremonies that feels more in harmony with your own value might be another opportunity for you to create the life you’ve always dreamed of. At the end you only have one shot at this life and it’s up to you to design it with meaning and beauty. Happy Holidays!
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Emilie Jackson, MS – Born in France and having lived in four different countries before settling in the US, Emilie has a passion for cultures, traditions, and rituals from around the world — especially tea rituals. Emilie is the co-owner of Emilie’s French Teas – a French Tea Room located inside Centered Spirit Cultural and Holistic Center,8131 Wornall Road, KCMO 64114, 816.225.9393, firstname.lastname@example.org.