Tim Burke: The holiday season is filled with family traditions

There are so many topics that could be written addressing many of the issues currently taking place in the United States that it is somewhat difficult to narrow the list down to one topic to write a column about.

When I go through the thought process of evaluating items that can be elaborated on in my weekly column I first look to events or topics that impact us locally. Our national and Nevada politics offer plenty of subject matter to write about and there are several syndicated political columns addressing those politics to peruse each week.

But when this column is published it will be just two more days to Christmas Eve. Rather than focus on the negative topics and politics that are constantly surrounding us, I think it’s far more appropriate for the season to write about holiday traditions and how families come together this time of year.

No matter what their faith and beliefs, families have certain holiday traditions that they follow each year. This passing of traditions from generation to generation is part of the glue that bonds families together. For those who celebrate the Christmas holiday, there are traditions that take place starting after Thanksgiving and going through New Year’s Day. Many of those traditions have been immortalized in films, TV, and print.

Families that live near evergreen forests often elect to gather up all the family members and cut a Christmas tree. Hours can be spent tramping around the mountains looking for that perfect tree. That tree that looked like the perfect size out in the middle of the forest often is much larger once brought home and needs to be trimmed down to fit inside the house.

Then the boxes that have the lights and decorations from last Christmas are dug out and the lights plugged in to see if they work or bulbs need replacing. Once the lights are hung, the ornaments go up on the tree. Families often have ornaments that are many years old and passed down each year. Once the tree is decorated the angel is placed on top and the tree is lit to the delight of all the family members. Some families choose to go all out and decorate their house like they are trying to emulate Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation.”

Others choose to instead load up the SUV or minivan and head out in search of the finding the best street or neighborhood that is decorated for Christmas. Some neighborhoods have house decorating contests and attract throngs of sightseers.

Some families make a point to show their children that helping others is also part of the holiday season.

Families help other families through “Angel Trees,” toy and clothing drives, volunteering at shelters, and many other worthwhile causes. It is also a wonderful time to reach out to people that you know will be alone on Christmas. They may insist they are just fine but in reality, they are thrilled to have someplace to go and not be alone. Being alone on Christmas can be emotionally very painful.

Christmas Eve often has a bevy of family traditions. It can be a traditional family dinner, followed by dessert and storytelling. On Christmas Eve some families allow a single gift to be unwrapped that evening. For others, it may be a dad or an older brother or sister slipping outside and ringing sleigh bells for the younger family members to hear while they lie in bed trying to sleep so the morning arrives faster. It may be sitting together as family watching a Christmas movie and sipping hot chocolate.

Christmas Day has many other family traditions. For us, it was our father preparing breakfast. Each year was the same menu – bacon, eggs, and homemade blueberry muffins. We were allowed to open our Christmas stockings, but our presents had to wait until after breakfast. You never saw breakfast eaten so fast as Christmas morning!

After breakfast we would gather around the tree and then one by one, each child would be handed a present to open by our father. Some years were leaner than others, and the tree might have had only a few presents, but we appreciated what we received and loved that we were together to celebrate.

After presents were opened, the wrapping paper was picked up, the presents moved to our bedrooms, and mom got busy preparing Christmas dinner. Once the turkey or ham was in the oven it was off to visit relatives. Christmas Day was spent outside, chasing cousins, playing games, riding bikes, and having a lot of fun. As the afternoon waned we headed home to be together for our family Christmas dinner.

This is just a small sample of the many traditions that families of differing backgrounds and faiths may follow during the holidays. It isn’t quite as easy now to preserve some of those family holiday traditions.

Families are not as connected as they once were and can be spread quite far apart. The traditional family unit is not so traditional anymore and it is common to have step-siblings and step-parents, family members of other faiths, family members with different ethnic backgrounds, partners, and many other variations of today’s modern family.

Regardless, the traditions that have passed down to us can be preserved and adapted to fit into today’s world. It might take some creativity, some planning, a willingness to be flexible, and a lot of patience but it can happen. It is also a wonderful time to embrace new traditions that family members might want to incorporate in with their more traditional ones. Whatever your faith, beliefs, and family situation, it can be a very affirming time of the year for family.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday!

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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