Cabbage Rolls and Trifle?

Despite the best of intentions to slow down and enjoy the season, the reality has been a rather frantic pace. It makes me especially grateful for the good number of nurturers on our team who do a fabulous job of making sure the human component that drives our work stays front and centre. This priority translates to such activities as meetings that begin with quick, personal introductory exercises. On a team conference call this week, the staff person assigned to facilitate started off by asking each of us to share our favourite Christmas tradition.

People were quick to chime in.  For some it was about a special food, for others it was an activity like skating with the family on Christmas Eve. As for me, what should have been a fun activity instead evoked an overwhelming sense of sadness. For the second year in a row, my husband and I won’t be home for Christmas. As a result, our beloved traditions, like Christmas Day brunch with our kids and my husband’s famous French toast and pancakes, won’t be possible. Instead we’re learning to focus on creating new traditions that involve my husband and I as well as our new and many good friends. 
In addition to making me understand how a song like Blue Christmas got written, the exercise also got me thinking about family and traditions and why they’re so important. 

It seems to me that traditions should be thought of as the glue that strengthens families and helps them stick together. There’s something about your own family traditions that facilitates special intimacy, unique interactions, and conversations that might not otherwise take place. 

It is during our celebrations and special activities that we are able to talk about the current happenings in our lives, the feelings associated with them, and to exchange meaningful dialogue. Research suggests that families gain greater feelings of closeness, belonging, and connection between generations as family traditions are implemented and passed on. When we have specific customs, rituals, or time together as a family, the family unit grows stronger. 

Children especially benefit from the feelings of unity and connectedness that are manifested through tradition. Children thrive as a result of family tradition - even those that may seem basic or simplistic. For instance, even though now fully grown, our kids get a big kick out of the fact that we still buy them pajamas, socks and underwear for Christmas. 

Traditions also make it easier for family members to recall experiences shared because they serve as markers. In our family, each of the kids did, and still do, receive one big gift as well as smaller more practical ones. They can pinpoint different Christmases based on the big gifts each received that year. Activities work they same way because when families make a habit of spending time doing specific activities, the memories can more readily be linked to those traditions or customs. Our kids still talk about the family times we spent skiing on New Year’s Eve day each year.
Every family is different and each needs to spend time revisiting existing or developing new traditions. It could involve foods specific to your family heritage – for us that always meant a Christmas Day dinner that included perogies and cabbage rolls from my Dad’s Ukrainian side in addition to my Mom’s English trifle for dessert.  However, family traditions could also involve an activity like attending church, playing charades, or walking through the neighbourhood to view the lights – an especially good idea when done between the main course and dessert.

Regardless of what they are, make the most of your existing traditions so you can recall wonderful memories or, as we’ve had to learn to do, create new ones.  For us that means one of our new traditions will be video conferencing via Skype so we will be able to see and talk with family members from across the country.  Not ideal for sure but on the plus side it will make for a calm, if not quite so bright, Christmas.
May your unique traditions wrap the magic and warmth of the season around you and your family!  Happy Holidays!


Posted on 12-20-09


Hi Brenda, I really enjoyed your story and started salivating just thinking about the pyrogies and cabbage rolls you mentioned. I have “cabbage roll” work-bee friends visiting from Halifax for New Years eve and I am trying to convince them to help me out.

Since my partner has been away over Christmas and New Years we decided to start a new tradition this year and celebrate Ukranian Christmas when he gets home.  SO, I hope to master a few more great dishes before the event.

Take care Brenda and have much success and happiness in 2010!

•Posted by Kathyrn Badry  on  12/29/09  at  09:12 AM

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