I love traditions. I love keeping a childhood tradition going, and creating new traditions with my little family, taking some of my other halfâ€™s childhood traditions and making them our own. I like to celebrate most of the main holidays, such as Christmas, New Yearâ€™s Eve, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and Easter, but never in a religious way, more in a traditional sense. Some may think that in order to celebrate these holidays one must be religious, but I donâ€™t agree. These holidays can be a time of warmth, laughter, love and family. You donâ€™t have to believe in the birth of Jesus to sit down by a Christmas tree, and exchange presents and laughs with friends and family. You also donâ€™t need to believe in a God to celebrate life at Easter. At the same time, just because religion isnâ€™t involved it doesnâ€™t mean that the holidays need to be all about money, presents and chocolate. On the contrary!
My time living in Israel taught me a lot about the importance of tradition. I lived on a technically non-religious kibbutz for many, many months, where holidays were celebrated in the traditional sense, not the religious one. We would all sit down for a big kibbutz Shabbat meal every Friday which was the time for everybody to get together and catch up on life. Purim and Passover were celebrated altogether, as fun and important traditions, and we learnt the importance of Hanukkah, not only the original story, but also the stories and traditions of people who, or whose family, had come from Europe, the Soviet Union, other Middle Eastern countriesâ€¦ Stories of darkness where the light shone through and stories of love and happiness too. It made me realize that tradition is so much stronger than religion, that it brings people together despite their religion, not because of it. Whether we were Jewish or not, it didnâ€™t matter. What mattered was that we understood the importance of traditions, of history and of family.
I have lived very far away from my mother, sister and brother for many years. Both across the world and across the country, meaning that I havenâ€™t spent a Christmas with everyone together for well over a decade. This is the first time in all of those years that not only will I be spending Christmas with my mother and siblings, but the first time that my partner and daughters will be spending Christmas with their aunts, uncle and Nana/mother-in-law. You see, for me Christmas has always been a magical time. I believed in Santa Claus until I didnâ€™t believe in him anymore, but still pretended I did, just because heâ€™s part of the whole magic. Santa comes down the chimney/through the window/sneaks in via the basement and drops off presents for everyone in the middle of the night, and has a good munch on the brandy and cookies left out for him. But thatâ€™s only a small part of Christmas, the part that is mainly for the kids, because there is also the food, the music, the games and the movies. For me it will always be Scrooge with Albert Finney and Oliver! the musical, all washed down with some Pogues, Wizzard, Slade and Wham! Our Christmas tree will always be a mix of old and new, no colour scheme, just a beautiful haphazard beacon of light in the centre of the room, and Iâ€™m really looking forward to adding my childrenâ€™s own homemade decorations in Christmases to come.
And the foodâ€¦ The most stressful, but definitely the best part! Last year I spent hours in our tiny kitchen in NYC, cooking one dish after another, using my motherâ€™s recipes that she had emailed over just so I could recreate my childhood memories. Oat roast, stuffing, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, steamed veggies and roasted parsnips, some meat for my partner and some good old Bisto gravy. Everyone has a different dish, a different tradition and I love to add a little something here and there every year. My partner has a tradition of eating homemade tamales on the 24th, so we have to start doing that too! In any case, itâ€™s all about the food, the leftovers and the food again here. Itâ€™s not that often that we all get to sit down together around a table, and I love that nowadays we all pitch in and make something rather than watch my poor mother slave away for hours every Christmas Day!
So there you go, a little glimpse into my Christmas, one that changes a little every year, but one that I try to recreate, wherever I am in life. I have spent Christmases in England and in France with family and friends growing up, a Christmas in Israel surrounded by new friends, many Christmases in NYC either with friends or family, one even alone, but nothing will ever match celebrating my favourite holiday with my children. Watching their eyes grow in amazement at lights and songs, seeing their faces light up on Christmas morning when they realize that Santa has beenâ€¦ There really is nothing better.
I feel that personally traditions help me stay grounded, remember where I come from, but also remind me where I have been, and are a great way to pass on some of my culture and background to my kids, so that one day they may also share these traditions with their loved ones. I would love to hear about other traditions, and how you celebrate the holidays!
Jade Anna Hughes is a writer and photographer who was born in the UK, grew up in France,
called NYC home for a decade before recently relocating to the
California sun. She has two young daughters and spends most of her
â€œspareâ€ time writing, reading and pulling her toddler off of her baby.
Jade commenced her blog in 2007 to push herself to be more open with her
writing (and we're huge fans). Head over to her blog by clicking here.
Jade can also be found on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.