Jan 2, 2009


We had black-eyed peas twice yesterday, so Swede Farm is all set for the next year. (We had them here then went to a good friend's farm where we ate them again.) In the course of the meal we had our (traditional) discussion about this Southern tradition. Some of my more literal children claim that eating black eyed peas on New Years Day is superstition. I do not agree, and to explain why, shared with them my definitions of superstition VS tradition. Superstition tries to shape the future by today's action, by and large unconnected to events in the past. Tradition looks back to the past, to the ways of our parents and grandparents and carries those actions forward as a way of honoring them and our history. Tradition is becoming a lost art in American culture. I guess it is not surprising that a nation founded on forging new principles and territories often clings to the new rather than to the old, but this is shortsighted because without a foundation how can a house stand? This applies across the board, whether the house is a nation, region, state or household.

When I was a child I was both immersed in tradition and devoid of it. Growing up in South East Asia and the Middle East I was exposed to the traditions of those cultures and still today carry an awareness of them, Chinese New Year, Ramadan, etc. What I did not have was the sense of my own cultural traditions. So much around me was overtly taught as tradition "This is how we celebrate in Indonesia" that those events in my own house that were not promoted as tradition simply did not receive much notice by me. We had black eyed peas and cornbread each New Year's Day but I do not recall it being discussed as "tradition", more as the answer to the usual question of "what's for dinner tonight, mom?" Now I am the mom and I take very seriously my responsibility as the one who will be passing on tradition to my children and through them, to my grandchildren. Some of these traditions, such as black eyed peas, are a part of their heritage as Southerners, particularly as sixth generation Texans. Other traditions, like St Lucia Day breakfast in bed for mom and dad comes from their Swedish ancestry. (And what a nice tradition it is, too!) Lighting candles and reading Scripture during Advent comes from their Christian heritage while eating the once-a-year cherry coffee cake on Christmas morning is specifically a Carlson tradition.

Growing up overseas meant that I did not have as close a relationship to my extended family stateside as I now wish. Having lost both parents now in many ways solidifies this fact. Being married to an only child who was also the only grandchild of parents and grandparents who were older means that their tradition has to be carried on by Tim and myself or it will be lost. It is a joyful burden to carry for it both anchors us to the past and gives us foundation for the future. It is part of why we homeschool, so we can have our children around us to teach them as we move through our day. It was intrinsic to why we left Houston and moved to our ten acres to try to create a farm and a lifestyle more akin to that which my father had when growing up.

Our traditions will be different than that of any other family, but that is to be expected. I am to teach our children our traditions. The challenge for you is to make sure that you are passing on your traditions. It is one of the most important jobs that we have as parents and thankfully, one of the most enjoyable as well. And usually some of the most yummy jobs as well!

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