Women: Bearers and Transformers of Holiday Traditions by Dr. Deb Kern
One day a newly married husband watched as his wife prepared a ham for their first Thanksgiving dinner. At one point he asked, “Sweetheart, why did you cut off both ends of the ham?”
“Because my mother always cut off the ends of the ham before baking it,” she said.
“I don’t know—let’s ask her when she comes over for dinner.”
So when her mother arrived, the new bride asked, ”When you prepared the ham every Thanksgiving, you would always cut off both ends—why did you do that?”
“I learned that step by watching my mother prepare the ham,” said the mother.
“But why?”“I don’t know-let’s ask your grandmother when she arrives for dinner.”
Finally, the Grandmother arrived for dinner and had barely entered the house when both mother and daughter asked, “When you prepared the ham for baking, you would always cut off both ends; why did you do that?”
“Because,” the Grandmother said, “the pan was too small.”
WOMEN ARE THE PRINCIPAL BEARERS OF TRADITION.
And in my experience, it is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we are honored with the gift of carrying forward sacred rituals from our families, our spiritual practices and our cultures. When we do this, we enliven even the most mundane activities and gatherings with the Divine. The curse comes when we simply go through the motions on automatic pilot without experiencing the sacred qualities of the ritual and without taking our own needs into account.
Just like the new bride who continued the tradition of cutting off the ends of the ham, you may be continuing a tradition that has lost its meaning and purpose. Or you may be continuing a tradition that creates huge stress in your life—which disconnects you from the sacred. Have you ever been so stressed creating the perfect Thanksgiving dinner that you didn’t feel thankful? So caught up in decorating and cooking that you were frazzled (or pissed off and resentful!) that you were unable to enjoy heartfelt connections with your guests?
As the keepers of sacred rituals and traditions women have the right to create new ones. How about that? How about your holiday season being a time for peace, comfort, love and healing? If we all chose this kind of holiday the world would transform in an instant.
As you prepare for your holiday season, reflect on the rituals and traditions you practice and ask yourself if they:
- Create more connection with Spirit
- Enhance connection between friends and family
- Offer you a sense of comfort and peace
- Help you feel connected to your roots
- Energize and nurture your mind, body and spirit
If they don’t, consider transforming them!
For years I have loved traveling with my family to join my parents and my siblings and their families for Thanksgiving. We love cooking together all day while sharing stories and then gathering for a delicious feast. Last year, however, with my son’s swimming schedule it was too stressful to travel, so we decided to cook and serve a Thanksgiving meal at a local shelter along with 3 other families. Afterward, we shared a simple potluck supper. Even though it was nothing like our traditional Thanksgiving, it met every single one of the criteria above and we all felt loved, loving, peaceful, comforted, nurtured and connected.
You are the goddess of your own household. Dare to transform any tradition that no longer serves the highest good for all involved, including—and especially—you.