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  • By: Douglas G. Goldberg
  • Published: December 23, 2013

Remember when you were a kid? Growing up was a wondrous time. For many of us, there were no real responsibilities, friendships you thought would last forever, lots of fun and laughter and family to help when you stumbled and the cold wind blew. Nearly every day was a sunny day and the world was possible. But there were a handful of days during the year that were truly magical – the last day of school, your birthday, and Christmas.

Ahhh, Christmas! An intersection of myriad sights, smells, taste, faith and fantasy. Memories and traditions that revolve around music, food, and giving gifts. Every family has its own holiday traditions. Those once a year things that get planned for a couple of months and rolled out just in time. A tradition is a custom, a ritual or a practice. It’s something you do all the time, every time. It’s a habit. It’s what you do or say or eat or sing this time of year just because you do. It’s what you’ve always done. Think back to your favorite and not so favorite holiday traditions. Do you actually know why you do what you do?

In my family, both my parents and Kitsen’s parents had their own unique traditions. As we started our own family, we let a few lapse and created a few others that were uniquely ours. I hope our kids will do the same. That’s how legacy is created.

Like most kids, one of the things we loved doing was making the all important snack for Santa on Christmas Eve. However, unlike most “milk and cookies” treats, our offering consisted of salami sandwiches on white bread with mustard, no mayo, no veggies, cut diagonally, chocolate fudge, and a glass of milk. My dad always told us that Santa needed real sustenance for his trip around the globe, hence the sandwich requirement. That was one tradition that died with my dad.

Another family tradition we have continued to this day was handed down from my great grandmother about a hundred years ago. Making homemade ravioli and meatballs from scratch is something we do every couple of years when we have all family members present because it takes so many hands to accomplish. It’s always interesting to relate the story of why the Goldberg family makes a traditional Italian meal for Christmas. My great grandmother was born in a little border town in Austria, and it’s a very long story after that. Perhaps another time.

Another interesting tradition involves the giving of gifts. It started on the first Christmas night when the Magi, or Wise Men, gave gifts to the baby Jesus as an act of worship. That tradition has survived for over two thousand years although it has come to represent more an act of love rather than worship. I have also learned over the last 55 years that sometimes it’s not the actual thing that is given that means the most to the recipient. It’s the presence. Particularly when kids are young, they tend to forget about the toy, the clothes, and the food. But they always remember that you were there. The memory of the tradition or the occasion brings a smile more often than trying to remember, “what did I get so and so for Christmas last year?”

So, putting aside the fact that my son, my mom and Kitsen’s grandmother all died in the first half of December and that the office workload is almost oppressive this time of year (not that I’m complaining!), and it’s miserably freaking cold most of the month, I still love December. It is truly a wonderful time and the month before January, when all starts anew. I wish each of you a laughter, faith and wonder–filled Christmas and a hopeful, prosperous and love-filled new year.