Personal and other traditions

An image showing a teapot and cup, because a cuppa goes with personal traditions.

When I saw the prompt for 4Thoughts, my first instinct was to say: I have no personal traditions. Then I thought about those traditional days, such as Christmas and New Year’s, and that’s when I realized I had more personal traditions than I thought.

Personal traditions when I grew up

When I grew up, Christmas wasn’t the same as it is now living in the Netherlands. Christmas in South Africa happens in the middle of the summer holidays, meaning we were on holiday and even if there was a Christmas tree, we were always outside. Yes, we definitely had the tradition of Christmas gifts, which were always given on Christmas Eve, after dinner, but that’s about it. No all-day cooking to prepare a Christmas meal, but just a BBQ like we would have done on a normal day too.

Speaking of BBQ’s, I grew up with them, the typical South African ‘braai’. In our household (and many others) it was a weekly happening to light some logs roundabout three in the afternoon and let them burn to coal. About three hours later, the meat would go on the BBQ and only when all the meat was cooked, we would eat. Sometimes we had corn with the meat, sometimes salads, and always some form of bread. For many years, it wasn’t only the BBQ on Saturday which was a given, but also the Friday night was spoken for, as we ate tenderized steak (it’s been so long since I last had that, and chips.

Sundays were spoken for too, but we didn’t always eat the same. Where our main meal on weekdays and Saturdays were had in the evening, the Sunday was different. Our family cooked for lunch, and there was always more than enough food – meat, rice, potatoes, and at least two salads, and of course, the traditional warm pudding afterwards. I thought this would be something of the past now, but I learned from my cousin that they still cook their big Sunday lunch every week, and I love that this tradition is still going.

When mom was still alive

Many things were different when mom was still alive. Her passing has left a huge hole in our lives, and we were all off-balance and working through our grief in different ways, especially my oldest daughter and me. You see, we always spent Christmas together at our place, with lots of love and laughter, and of course, also good food. I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas 2017, but my daughter did. The compromise was to not spend it at our place, but at our daughter’s, but it was an awkward Christmas. There were more (suppressed) tears than laughter that year, and we all knew we had to do something different the next year.

Something I miss tremendously is not being able to send my mom the words ‘I love you’ on Mother’s Day, or ‘surprise’ her with a visit on her birthday. We never really celebrated Mother’s Day, but that was the one day I told my mom a extra time that I loved and appreciated her, and sometimes I even hopped over for a cup of tea.

I used to do the same on her birthday. If she could have had her way, she would never have celebrated her birthday. When she turned 50, she just had to celebrate it. Not only me and the kids, but also my cousin in the north (she was like a daughter to my mom) constantly told her we want her to have a birthday party. And so she did. That day we made a pact: she would celebrate her birthday every 5 years. And so she did, her last one being in hospital, twenty years after the pact was made, feverish, gravely ill, and only allowed two visitors at a time, for a maximum of 10 minutes. This was five weeks before she passed. Only thing is, and mom knew this, my daughter and I didn’t keep to the pact, because on those other birthdays, we did the same as on Mother’s Day: ‘surprise’ her with a visit.

Respecting daughter’s wishes

My daughter is much more traditional than I ever was. She absolutely adores Christmas, and makes it a special time for her kids ever year. My oldest grandson is like his mom – crazy about Christmas. Over the years I have grown to respect my daughter’s wishes. Even though I stopped celebrating my birthday, I know she will always visit for a cuppa, and she does the same for Mother’s Day. Those days are important to her, and even though they are not to me, I welcome her and accept the small gift she always has with her. I think I have grown so used to it, that if she wouldn’t visit me, I will actually be disappointed!

As said above, when my mom passed away, we knew we had to do Christmas differently. My daughter respects my wish to not celebrate Christmas the way we used to, so we started new traditions in 2018. On Christmas Eve she always invites her siblings with their partners for dinner. On the 25th she visits her parents in law for the day, and on the 26th they come over here in the afternoon for tea and cake. This was our compromise, as where I don’t (yet) want to celebrate Christmas like we did with my mom, I do want to see my kids during the festive days. So it’s not only me respecting my daughter’s wishes, but the kids respecting mine too. I think we just met each other somewhere in the middle, and everyone’s happy.

Obviously for Christmas 2020 we couldn’t follow our new traditions, because of Christmas, but I still got to see all my kids, even though they didn’t see each other.

Other personal traditions

With all the kids living in their own places now, one thing I have started doing is to visit them for their birthdays. The Dutch culture is to celebrate birthdays, which our oldest daughter does for the kids, but not for her and her husband, and our son and daughter celebrate theirs too. Birthdays are mostly celebrated on the weekend closest to a birthday, if it’s during the week, but I go to see them on their special days.

Looking back at the festive days we had in 2020, and where Master T and I were mostly together except for the three short visits from or to our kids. One wish of mine is to be in a hotel for Christmas, and preferably every Christmas. We still have to see how we can do this, since Master T is not allowed to take time off from work in December and January, due to the nature of his work. And of course, how will I then see the kids if I am somewhere in a hotel. So maybe the Christmas tradition will change again, maybe not.

One of the festive traditions that will not change is New Year’s Eve. Master T and I are always home, and we always listen to the Top 2000. It has become such a big part of our NYE that I can’t imagine not listening to it. The music adds to the special feeling of ending one, and starting a new year. And then of course, there’s that first kiss just seconds after midnight, wishing each other a Happy New Year. Maybe not a tradition, but definitely a kiss I will never skip!

© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay


4 Thoughts or Fiction

4 thoughts on “Personal and other traditions

  1. This was interesting Marie, learning about traditions we do not have in England.

    I know just what you mean about having to ‘reinvent’ Christmas once a lynchpin in your family is gone. Lockdown was almost a blessing this year for us – we had to do things so differently that we did not feel the yawning gap around the absence of my Dad/ our usual family party at his house.

    I’d say you’re doing your traditions just right, leaning towards each other’s preferences so that everybody gets something of what they need, compromise is needed otherwise a tradition written in stone is likely to become a burden.

    1. And that’s the last thing we want, right? For traditions to become burdens. I totally feel you with the lock-down around Christmas. This year it was much easier for us too, because of the strict rules.

  2. The Top 2000 is what started this prompt over on Liz’s blog. And I love this tradition – “typical South African ‘braai’. ” – sounds right up my street.
    Traditions do change when someone passes – did for me too. And my kids love traditions too…
    May xx

    1. I would love to have a ‘braai’ again, but then a real SA one, not the way the Dutch do it. And as the end of the year nears, we will get ready for the Top 2000 again 🙂 xox

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