My mind has been on traditions a LOT the past few months. I guess it has been the holiday season — after all, nothing says “tradition” like the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year! But for some reason, each little tradition, new and old, has seemed more special this year. I’ve also been thinking a great deal about the importance of traditions throughout the year, not just during this season, and I may be talking more on that over the next few weeks. But today I want to look at the “why” behind our traditions (which often involve special collections or individual items). These traditions or items derive their meaning from our “why” — without a reason, a collection is a mere pile of things, not a treasure trove of memories.
My grandmother wrote little notes and attached them to her belongings. After she passed away, we found these handwritten reminders stuck inside of small vases, taped to the back of items, and tucked into plastic baggies with small items. From collectibles to jewelry, she took the time to tell us why the few things she had were special. Those notes were so important after she was gone — few of her treasures had much monetary value, and I don’t think many of us would have known the significance of these items without those notes.
My grandparents didn’t have much money, and this 12k gold plated pin and earring set was a huge expense for my grandfather in 1964. I plan to have the set dipped in gold, and the screw-back earrings converted to posts. In reality, no one in our family would choose this style today, and this piece of history would likely have been cast aside (or at best, relegated to the bottom of a storage drawer) if we hadn’t known its origin.
My husband and I have one little collection that was started in our family 24 years ago and today I would like to share with you the reason it is so special to me.
In December, 1991, this really cute guy I was madly in love with asked me to drive around with him to see Christmas lights. I expected to drive through a few local neighborhoods, but what I got was a trip into the city to see the National Christmas Tree at the White House.
This huge evergreen is located on The Ellipse on the south side of the White House, and is surrounded by a smaller tree from each state. As we strolled around taking it all in, he suddenly stopped and asked, “Do you know what I want to give my parents for Christmas this year? …A new daughter-in-law.” I then noticed a certain sparkly little thing in his hand…
The next morning, I received a gift from a co-worker at the Pentagon — the first White House Christmas ornament I had ever seen. When I called to thank him, he told me the story of purchasing it that morning at the Pentagon gift shop.
Young female cashier, making pleasant conversation: “Is this a gift for you or someone else?”
Joe: “It’s for a young lady in my office who got engaged at the National Christmas Tree last night.”
Young female cashier: “Wait! Was her name Wendy? My best friend saw the whole thing and said it was the sweetest thing she had ever seen!”
Funny thing, I don’t even remember Kelsey saying my name. The only thing I remember is how it felt to walk without my feet touching the ground.
We have continued our collection and today, we have most of the ornaments issued by the White House Historical Association since 1991, and are working to acquire the few we have missed. This has also become a distinctive gift I love to give to special friends and family. It is my way of sharing a unique piece of our family’s story.
Do you have an item, collection, or tradition that is particularly meaningful to you? And more importantly, does your family know the story behind it?
“Why Not?” put some thought this month into a special family tradition or collection, whether it is one already existing or one you would like to start. Make sure those people important to you understand where the tradition came from and why it is special, because there is so much meaning to be found in the uniqueness of each family’s story.
Please comment below and share your tradition or collection and the “why” behind it — I really want to know your story!
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