By JoAnne Boettcher-Verigin

Originally published in Biosis #27, November 2009; updated

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is almost here, but tomorrow it is! Some of us will give our time to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Some of us will take part in religious observances. Many of us will gather with family and friends for the traditional feast, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to be together.

family gatheringThe one common thread is the role of human connection through the holidays – from Thanksgiving through the winter celebrations. Whether you observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice or other occasion, most likely there is a big emphasis on being with and giving to others.

Our home was always a hive of activity during the holidays when I was growing up – all the planning, baking and wrapping! I especially remember the first Christmas we celebrated after the end of World War II, with aunts and uncles finally home again. Everyone gathered at our home and helped decorate the tree. It seemed there was a story behind every ornament: the beautiful glass ball that my Great Aunt Maggie bought for me when I was five; decorations my mother had made from cast-off jewelry; paper chains I made in school; endless strands of silver icicles that had to be placed one by one, just so.

And there were other reminiscences. Mother and her siblings never failed to talk about their childhoods in the Midwest. They talked about trips to their grandmother’s house, not by car but by sleigh, kept warm by hot rocks their mother had heated and tucked in under their blankets.

As I grew up and started my own family, and as my own parents grew older, it became my responsibility to carry on these traditions and add to them. Now as I look at my grown children and their children, I see them add their own traditions while still maintaining the old.

It seems to me that those memories and traditions add stability to the family in unstable times – both the families we’re born into and the families we choose for ourselves. They serve to remind us what really is important in life. I am thankful this year for all of those memories – and for the opportunity to look ahead and make new ones.

As you engage in your own traditions, I hope you will stop and take stock and be grateful, too. Although these are challenging times, to be sure, when we recognize and honor our connections to friends and family, and the love and comfort that they give us, the going can seem just a little bit easier.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Image by Bo Gordy-Stith, via Flickr

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