Traditions for the New Year

I don’t know when I stopped buying sparkling grape juice on New Year’s Eve, but I am sure I was well past the age of 21. Traditions are hard to break. And that isn’t a bad thing.

It had never occurred to me that anyone could buy sparkling grape juice whenever they wanted to…why would that be necessary? It was “champagne for children;” and was meant to be sipped from plastic champagne flutes while adults drank the real stuff. At least, that’s what my experience had taught me.

I can’t remember adults drinking champagne outside of New Year’s Eve and weddings. Every other day of the year found them guzzling beer, wine, various mixed drinks—but champagne was special. Which meant sparkling grape juice was special. And if you only drink something once a year, on the exact same day each year, it becomes a tradition of the most serious kind. 

To the uninitiated, it appears pointless.

I asked my husband if he remembers me buying sparkling grape juice, and he knew exactly when I last bought it: “Before we moved to Michigan, when we lived on Moss Avenue.” Why would he remember that? I suppose for the same reason I remember the last time I heard Emil “Farmer” Bill’s “Christmas in a Barn.”

For those of you who don’t know (and that has got to be most of you), Emil was the farm director for a local radio station in the 1930s. He later released a Christmas record in 1969 to promote his show; it was a religious Christmas narrative. And every year, just prior to opening gifts on Christmas Eve, my husband’s family kicked off the festivities by listening to this record.

It holds no meaning to me, but most years we have put it on the turntable for the sake of my husband’s nostalgia. And then a week later, we drink sparkling grape juice from plastic cups. The merging of these family memories combines our worlds in a way that offers our daughter a mix of traditions that are uniquely her own.

These simple, meaningless acts often become the most meaningful moments in our lives. They are what make holidays something more than just another day of the week. And it isn’t limited to holidays. It’s going to grandma’s house every Sunday, or picking up pizzas every Friday for dinner.

I had a friend who baked cookies with her mom every Wednesday night. Guess who still bakes cookies on Wednesday nights? Anything will do. Pick an activity and assign it an exclusive schedule, and you’ve got yourself a tradition! There is a reason my mom once filled our adult Christmas stockings with those horrible little Vienna sausages.

Think of the possibilities. I have now decided the weirder the tradition, the better; and I think this might be a New Year’s Resolution I can manage. Maybe I will create a different strange tradition for each day of the week, and use it to help Teghan understand the calendar better. Sometimes the tiniest details of our daily existence become important, and decades later we learn our grandchildren are still celebrating “classic movie night” every Thursday.

We have the power to create that.

It is also not limited to families. Friends can have their own traditions, too. (There is another resolution to add to the list.)

We don’t have a sitter tonight. I imagine I will make it to the store today for some sparkling grape juice for Teghan. We will stay up long past the time she has gone to bed, drinking whiskey and eating junk food—and celebrating the death of 2016. Which, for us, has not been the worst of years. We will welcome 2017 with a kiss, and wipe the slate clean of whatever we want to forget. And we will start again as if January 1st offered an opportunity that isn’t available every day of the year.

And all of it would appear pointless, if not for tradition.

 

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