Monday, March 07, 2011

Tradition-According to Barbara (Ruth)

“Tradition! Tradition!” sings Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. He explains that without traditions, the lives of the villagers would be as shaky as a “fiddler on the roof”.

I’ve been thinking about tradition a lot in the past few days, wondering about its role in my life and the way it has shaped me.

There are the little things, traditional only to me: celebrating my half birthday on October 21st, saying hello to the lake at the cottage every time I arrive there, and saying the same bedtime prayer every night.

There are more substantial traditions that shape my days with friends and family: sharing my morning tea with co-workers before starting the day, Oscar night with a long-time friend, and Sunday morning breakfasts with a bff.

And there are the deep-rooted traditions that stay with us our whole lives. For me, these are about activities and conversations rather than things. I think of  family camping trips and corn roasts down the East Coast, teasing Dad about his (in)ability to catch fish, arrival of the Christmas Elf every Advent season (his name is Elfie, and he STILL magically arrives at my parents’ place every year, and all of us STILL say hello to him), canoeing around the lake with my Dad every weekend, paddling softly to get close to the loon, seeing who could put the communion glasses in the back of the pew without making any noise (it bothered my Great Aunt Nell that people made a clattering noise after communion, so it became a “thing” for us to be very quiet about it), making bread  and rolls and cinnamon buns with my Mum on the weekends, and singing grace with my sisters.

Last weekend I spent some time with my Dad, who is suffering from vascular dementia. This man, who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, and who was one of the funniest and jolliest men I have ever known, has lost his command of words. But I still see the twinkle in his eye, and all I have to do is show him a picture of us camping years ago, and he is taken back there and can describe what we were doing and where we were. 

Tevye was right - traditions help shape us and keep us grounded as the world changes around us. What are the traditions that mean the most to you?


  1. One of my favourite traditions is this: when we go on a family trip, I bring a book along to read out loud. The girls are 16 and 13 and we all still love it! We also take along our trip journal, and while we're on holidays we take turns writing or drawing about the day's adventures. It's one of the most precious things I own!

  2. My kids actually insist on celebrating their half-birthdays. It makes everyone other than their grandparents laugh, but the truth is, their birthdays are exactly six months apart - June and December 27. So really, the question is, isn't this how new traditions get started?