Traditions even when I dont’ see them

Veronica complained that her elementary school teachers wanted her to write about Christmas traditions. “I don’t know what a tradition is, because I’ve only seen what we do. I don’t know what other people do.”

Is it a tradition if we don’t make a big deal of it being a tradition? It’s rather subtle if we just do one particular thing one day a year. It’s only over time that it becomes a pattern.

What she seemed to be thinking of was traditions that are carried on by many families. Maybe like Christmas carols. The traditional songs played every year on the radio are a shared experience. Even so, there are songs that get to be the favorites for our particular family.

There are hymn-style carols. And then there are the American carols…even up to as recent as the rock’n’roll Christmas songs. But Brenda Lee’s ‘Rockin’ around the Christmas tree’ is 64 years old. The new ones aren’t that new.

It’s not just the songs though. Christmas traditions are about being together. Yes, the meal and maybe some background music. But the games are required. There are several games that we play, that only we play—two generations back card games no one else has ever heard of.

And then there is the one, like the Christmas songs on the radio, that everyone plays. My daughter has never known a holiday that didn’t have Uno.

It’s a special card deck that is so simple, the littlest kids can play. And it doesn’t take much concentration. There is just enough trick moves that I can complain that the one is hiding or plotting against the other.

It’s a game that was started by an Ohio family in ’71. I imagine they enjoyed it a lot. They took crazy eights and added a few tweaks. They believed in it so much that they printed out five thousand decks. Loaded them in the vehicle and drove across the country selling it. They were as popular as he hoped, which led to even better marketing. At last, in 1992 the huge toy company Mattel bought it and it showed up everywhere—particularly in the after-dinner pre-dessert part of the holiday meals.

People have their own holiday traditions. One of the warmest traditions for me is the togetherness. The games make it playful. That time when someone snuck in a draw four on the guy who just called out “uno!” The other time when Grandma won three times in a row. This is the way the traditions settle in.

Veronica’s going to be in high school next, so I don’t think she’ll get asked to write about traditions anymore. She’ll just have them.

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