Get-togethers part of family traditions

By Norman Knight

Last week our family went to the Artcraft Theatre to enjoy “A Christmas Story,” a classic traditionally shown during the holidays. The four grandkids and their parents, as well as Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Amanda, laughed, ate popcorn and immersed ourselves in all the incidentals that make a visit to the Artcraft special. It was a fun-filled experience.

We gathered at the theater because it was a chance to do something together. We also gathered because it was an opportunity to observe one of our family traditions, the first tradition of this 2017 holiday season, as a matter of fact. I am thinking, though, we might consider pacing ourselves. We still have a lot of traditions to observe during the next 30-plus days.

This first Christmas tradition of the season, and all that are soon to come, follows closely on the heels of our Thanksgiving traditions. These traditions involve certain foods which must be provided by certain people and certain rituals around the dinner table which must be observed. Oh, we have tried in the past to vary things. One year, for example, we cooked a goose instead of a turkey. But traditions are tough things to mess with, and tradition-bound family members can be severe taskmasters. In our particular family, it is very risky to go too far astray, to rock the gravy boat.

Going to the Artcraft means going to view classic movies. It seems to me that by definition a contemporary movie cannot be considered a classic. Classics like traditions take time to develop and become established. That is why our family has been busy establishing several family traditions ever since the grandkids have been around. It’s a relatively young family — the oldest of the four is 12 — so our traditions, at least where they are concerned, are also young. We are making new traditions.

In one sense the term “new tradition” might seem like an oxymoron, but I believe it is a valid expression for what we are dealing with. We’ve been doing this Artcraft Christmas movie thing for only a few years, but we definitely considered it a tradition. The way the family figures things, the first year it is an event, the second year a flag has been planted and territory established, and by year three, well, you’d better think twice before ignoring it and thereby overturning tradition.

As the month goes on, our Artcraft Christmas movie tradition will be followed by the traditional family visit to Santa’s workshop and a ride on the Santa Express at the Indiana State Museum. Then we will enjoy an excursion to the Eiteljorg Museum where we will marvel at the traditional Jingle Rails exhibit.

Closer to home, we will stroll through the array of decorated Christmas trees at the Johnson County Museum — just down the street from the Artcraft — where we will ponder which of the trees to vote for as our favorite. All of these outings are part of the run-up to the big Dec. 25 traditions which include opening gifts, eating a good (traditional) meal and sharing in each other’s happiness.

I know some people’s traditions include opening presents on Christmas Eve while other people wait until late on Christmas day after all the out-of-town visitors have arrived. My dad loved to tell us kids that his dad would make him and all his siblings wait until after a long drawn-out breakfast before they could finally open the doors to the room where the presents were arrayed under the tree. It was almost more than they could bear, he said, but it was a tradition.

The word “tradition”comes from the Latin word meaning to hand over for safekeeping. What the adults in our family are hoping for, I think, as we establish new traditions is that someday they will become old memories.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to