I’ve just returned from a Thanksgiving holiday with my children and grandchildren, and the one thing I’m always asked to bring is grandma’s egg noodles. Most people have a special dish they bring to family gatherings around the table, don’t they? It could be Aunt Martha’s stuffing, Sis’s cheesy broccoli casserole, or that favorite chocolate walnut pie that dad always makes and everyone saves room for. For me, it’s the noodles, but it’s so much more than that.
As far as tradition goes, I’m about as nontraditional a person as anyone I know, but there are a few that I choose to carry forward. My grandmother taught me to make noodles, and every time I make them, I think of that experience and of my love for her. So what does tradition mean to you? Is it about the taste? The aroma? Or is it something that can’t be defined by the five senses alone?
Webster’s Collegiate defines tradition as “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom).” The true value of tradition, whether it’s a special food at the holiday table, ornaments on a Christmas tree, or just the fact that grandma always has the same mints in that special pocket in her purse, has a much deeper meaning than that.
Tradition, for me, is about the memories that are created from the very first incidence of the event. Those traditional foods and/or events are the things we can count on, when life throws us curve balls, when family members are vacant from the table, when generations multiply and move forward in time. If you think about it, traditions are a family’s way of staying connected and being remembered.
Just a few days before I left for my holiday, I posted a photo of my grandma’s noodles drying on the table for my reader group on Facebook. One of my readers commented that it brought back memories of her grandma, who also made homemade egg noodles, and she said that she’d never learned to make them although her mom made them occasionally. My response to her was that she should ask her mom to teach her how to make them, because it would really be sad if the tradition, the memories, and the feelings were suddenly lost in time.
When we share those traditional recipes, there’s something of beauty on both sides of the equation. Not only does the next generation learn, but the previous generation feels valued, which is a true gift, especially since the advent of Google. In addition, you’re creating yet another memory… together. In the course of my lifetime, I’d never really thought about the import of tradition. Perhaps you have to see more of your life behind you to really understand the value.
My hope is that after having read this article, you’ll be inspired to share the old traditions with your family, or maybe even create some new ones.