I've been thinking a lot on traditions as the holiday season rushes in. This year my traditions have sunk in a little deeper. As I sat struggling this time last year, the importance of tradition was one of the few things that brought me comfort. Sometimes even the simplest tradition can be the greatest escape when the world is closing in.
I've always been a stickler for how my holidays go. There are certain things I need to watch, eat, drink, etc. While grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, my husband asked if I wanted to get their fried onions for the green bean casserole we are bringing to Thanksgiving at a friend's. I immediately balked at the idea, saying I wanted the 'real ones'. The 'real ones' are French's fried onions, the ones I grew up on. Any time I refer to the 'real ones', they are items that my family used. So I need Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and French's fried onions among other particular grocery items. It is not that any other brand wouldn't taste just as good. It is that this time of year, seeing those packages in my grocery cart spreads a warmth over me and their particular flavors are long established as holiday necessities. They make me feel like home.
I like to watch the parade in the morning. I like to watch a certain movie after dinner and I like to have a second or third helping of heated up leftovers as I do. My husband has been very supportive about these traditions as they have now become our own. We've added little things such as mimosas with the parade and an additional Thanksgiving flick he loves as well as the necessary cranberry sauce only him and my mother eat. Tradition is key to our holiday celebrations and it is something we look forward to every year.
Last year, my world was about to be rocked at this time. When the wave of depression, confusion, anxiety, and utter despair crashed down on me, the holidays seemed overwhelming. I was out of a job and being denied benefits (a whole other story). I had a fight on my hands that I did not ask for or deserve and I was sinking fast. The idea of purchasing gifts, celebrating in any way, was daunting and frightening as I could barely keep from crying.
We had just celebrated Thanksgiving with all the traditions. It had been marred by this event and suddenly those feelings of home and comfort washed away. I was cold and confused with Christmas looming before me. After wallowing, I attempted to recover any holiday spirit I had left. While it was minuscule to start, piece by piece, traditions brought me back together.
We watched the movies. We ate the food. We listened to the music and we decorate the fuck out of our apartment. I healed under colorful lights and precious ornaments. It felt old and familiar. I recovered parts of myself that gave me strength to start a new year.
This time around, I am in a much better place. I can reclaim Thanksgiving and feel its coziness longer into the winter. I can carry it with me instead of casting it out into the cold night with the rest of my faith in humanity.
Traditions are a reminder of that humanity. There is a magic to them that I treasure and appreciate it. An old magic. They helped to save me. Even if they only happen once a year, they are special and important to celebrate. I know they will continue to provide me solace. I know that French's fried onions remind me of my mother and turkey sandwiches the next day on white bread with mayo remind me of my father. The movies will bring me joy and make me laugh and cry in all the same moments. It is a routine, something that doesn't surprise or shock me. Something stable I can rely on.
When the world was pitch black, they were a silver lining of normalcy. I was drowning and they were a life raft. I plan to do every and all of them this holiday season and for all seasons to come. Even spanning a wider scope at what is happening all around us in a 24 hour news cycle, I think we all could use a little normalcy, a small escape to remind us we are all human and tradition is not restricted to just one culture. We all have them. And sometimes, we need them more than we think we do.