This weekend I have attended two events that have been part of my life for a very long time which made me realize two things:
Traditions are something wonderful. But they also have the potential to make me very sad.
Each year in November there is a weekend, when we I attend two birthday celebrations in a row:
My best friend’s birthday party and my grandpa’s birthday dinner.
While others only organize birthday parties every decade or so, my grandpa and my best friend have always been strict about it. For them, every single birthday is a reason to celebrate.
My best friend has come up with different creative ideas over the past years. Once we raced us in go-karts, other times she set up a tent in her courtyard, serving mulled-wine for everyone in Christmas market style.
My grandpa on the other hand invited the family to the same Greek restaurant every single year.
Both birthday traditions have something in common though: At some point, they became an institution in my life.
Year after year the same people have attended these events and I especially enjoy seeing all of them together in one place.
In that regard, traditions really are something wonderful. Everyone takes the little extra effort to make it, in order to honour the tradition. Thus, even if I’m busy all year and live quite a distance away from people I care about, I can count on meeting everyone who matters. These moments are full of joy and sweet old memories, making us feel as if nothing had changed at all.
Unfortunately there are changes in our lives that even traditions can’t conceal forever. Some burst into our lives like a hurricane – whereas others go mostly unnoticed.
And that’s where traditions become bittersweet.
Last night, before heading to the restaurant my mom and I were looking through old pictures of my grandpa’s past birthdays. Seeing these old photographs, encountering younger versions of ourselves, it suddenly hit me how many things have changed over the years.
My grandparents are both dead. So, technically, we aren’t actually celebrating my grandpa’s birthday anymore but rather remembering him.
Instead, my own mother is a grandma now. All of my siblings are in serious relationships, two of them are married and have kids. We have long since stopped being the young generation – that role belongs to my nephews now.
Without noticing it, there was a change of generations and nothing is like it used to be anymore.
When did all this happen and where has the time gone? The thought made me very sad for a moment.
Creating new traditions
At the same time I realized, how lucky we are to still have such wonderful traditions like our annual family meeting in that restaurant.
It’s the course of life that things change – but it’s up to us how we handle it. We may not be able to bring back the good old days, and some traditions may very well die with the people who held them up.
But who says that we can’t create new rituals?
By deciding to continue meeting at my grandpa’s birthday, my family and I have done just that. In the moment we took that decision, we have created a new tradition. And maybe, one day, my nephews are going to remember that weekend in November the way I remembered my grandpa’s past birthdays. As a piece of wonderful quality time with everyone who mattered in our family.
I love the idea. And at the same time it makes me sad. It’s a bittersweet tradition.