From the Mommy Files…

Don’t Forget Where You Come From – You Should Be Proud

Posted on: April 22, 2010

Keeping Traditions Alive – No Matter What

We’re Greek Orthodox, and recently, we celebrated the most important feast of the entire year – Easter. My husband and I began hosting holiday celebrations, because we like to entertain, but more importantly, to keep traditions alive. In my own family, I noticed that the traditions were slowly being left behind – it was as if we were forgetting where we came from. It’s a similar story in my husband’s family. I decided a long time ago, that it was my mission to keep the traditions alive – no matter what. OK, I can’t take all the credit. My beloved grandmother, also named Maria, came to me in a dream, shortly after her death. She said, since I was the only one who seemed to show any interest in our culture, it was up to me to keep it going. I took her words very seriously. She never, ever steered me wrong.

Now there is doing a traditional thing here or there, and there is going all out. Mind you, I cannot do things half way, so yes, I go all out. It’s that important. I can just hear you now – absolutely, I am crazy. With the 3 year-old and the 1 year-old underfoot – sometimes screaming because they’d rather play – I keep at it. Traditions are alive and well in this family.

My 3 year-old has now become my trusted helper. When she was a baby, the only way I could getting any sort of baking done was to put her in her high chair, give her some cookie cutters, spatula, measuring spoons and cups, etc., and let her “bake” too. When she was big enough, she wanted to do some actual baking herself. She loves to mix the ingredients. We use this as learning time as well. She counts how many cups or spoonfuls; we watch the clock to determine when to add the next ingredient. It’s also a time when I explain things to her about the holiday, and of course, about my beloved grandmother, whose recipes I use quite a bit. I tell her about our big family celebrations. As my cousins have married and attend holiday gatherings with in-laws, ours are getting smaller. I long for those big boisterous celebrations – especially at Easter.

This year we got the 1 year-old into the act. We put her in the high chair and gave her things so she could “bake” and then we let her taste-test after the cookies had cooled. She didn’t like this at Christmas, but she was very into it this holiday. Somehow she made the connection that you put things in the bowl and stir. I couldn’t believe it when I saw her stirring and there was milk and a cookie in the bowl!

Sure they get bored, and want to do other things sometimes, so I try not to overwhelm them. Now, mind you, the 3 year-old gets upset if she finds out that I made something without her! If you ask her, she can tell you why all the Easter eggs are colored red, and that it’s her godparents that send her a decorated candle to use during the candlelit Resurrection service at midnight on Easter Sunday. Sometimes I forget that she’s 3, though shortly thereafter, she usually reminds me!

It’s important to start from when they are very small, so it’s ingrained, so they grow up with it. When they are younger, they are more receptive. We feel the same about church. I didn’t grow up going to church much, since my father owned a restaurant and always worked, and my mom didn’t drive. When I got older and went to church alone, it took a while to get comfortable and learn about things. I’m still learning. I always want my kids to feel that comfort, to feel the warmth. The people at church are an extended family, and I want my children to know them. I want them to be around the church as much as possible, for Greek school and other activities, designed to help them learn about our religion and to grow spiritually.

For some, this model doesn’t work, but do I believe the closer we keep them to their roots, the greater the chance that we can perpetuate our cultures. Everyone should be proud of where they come from. We didn’t all just magically appear here. It makes us who we are. We all came from a proud culture. In a melting pot society, where we are often pressured to assimilate, it’s incumbent upon us to teach our children where they came from, who they are, and what their background is. If they are of multiple ethnicities, great – there’s so much more for then for them to discover. These things are all part of them and makes them who they are. And why not share your culture with friends? I love learning about other cultures. I’m fascinated by their traditions.

To me this is as important as feeding my children. I’m also nourishing their minds, hearts and souls. So if this means, I don’t sleep in the days leading up to a holiday; that the laundry piles up; that I get very stressed in the preparations; that sometimes I could pull my hair out…just bring me some Epsom salts to soak my feet in after the big party. No matter what – the celebrations will continue. I’m proud of where I come from; we all should be proud of and celebrate our roots. If we don’t keep the traditions alive, they’ll be lost forever.

I keep all this in mind, even as the 3 year-old sings the triumphant hymn, “Christ is Risen” – in Greek – 20 times in a row. She’s excited that she knows it and can sing with everyone. And I am proud. On to the next holiday!

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1 Response to "Don’t Forget Where You Come From – You Should Be Proud"

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