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Stacy Vorbeck

Christmas Traditions

By: Stacy Vorbeck
College Now Course - BSS 1

The holiday season is usually a special time for every family. It's a time where we gather together and celebrate the holiday through our own traditions. My family celebrates Christmas. I don't have a very big family and we don't always spend Christmas day together. We do however have the same traditions which make us feel connected even though we are not together. The members of my family give and receive many gifts at Christmas, but the one thing we all receive alike is our Christmas ball. This is an ornament that each member in my family has. It looks like a normal Christmas ball decoration for the tree, but it opens up, so that a gift can be put inside.

The Christmas ball is very special to my family because it brings memories of my great grandparents (on my mother's side) who initially started the tradition. My mother's grandmother's name was Sarah Schawaroch. Sarah was married to John and they had two children. Their first child was Edna who was born on February 12th, 1917, she was my mother's mother. Their second child was John who was born February 12th, but six years later in 1923. Around 1928, when Edna was eleven years old, Sarah became very ill. The family soon found out that Sarah had tuberculosis. They could not let Sarah live with the family any longer or they too would be infected. Sadly, Sarah had to be sent to a special camp right before Christmas. Sarah must have known that it would be the last Christmas she would be spending with her family. Right before she went away, she gave Edna and John each a Christmas ball. Inside was a letter to each of them and a small gift for them to remember her by.

Sadly, Sarah did not return for the following Christmas. But Edna and John still had their Christmas balls to remember her by. Edna became like a mother to her brother, John. Her father had to work to support them, so she did her best to make their home seem as normal as possible. Edna knew that the first Christmas without her mother would not only be hard for her, but her father and brother as well. The Christmas was not only hard emotionally, but also financially for the family. Edna knew that there would not be many gifts under the tree that year. She was only twelve years old, but she took on much responsibility and tried hard to make the Christmas a happy one. Edna wanted her brother John to remember his mother, for he was only six years old at the time. So, that Christmas, Edna filled the Christmas balls that her mother left for her and John. She put something small but precious in it, something that she knew John would have forever.

From then on, Edna knew that John would always have the memory of his last Christmas with his mother. Edna would carry out this tradition with her brother and father. When Edna grew up and started a family of her own, she brought the tradition with her. Edna married and had two daughters of her own. Her first was my Aunt Patricia, and her second was my mother, Karen. She bought a Christmas ball for each of her daughters and filled it every Christmas. There were some hard years when having no Christmas gifts was something that was ordinary. Despite this, Edna always filled her children's Christmas balls, It did not matter how small the gift was, it was cherished by Patricia and Karen because it was sometimes the only gift that they received. John also carried on the tradition with his own family. Each one of his five children had a Christmas ball.

When the tradition finally reached my generation, the meaning behind it had sort of faded. It was not that my family members had forgot why the tradition started, but they just didn't speak of it. I grew up having a Christmas ball every year. I never knew why I had it, or why I was the only one out of my friends to have one. I only knew that my parents would always put the most special gift in the Christmas ball. After everyone has opened their presents, we would go around the room and each open our Christmas ball. It seemed that the gift in the Christmas ball was always everyone's favorite. I never knew why my mom spent so much time trying to find the perfect gift for our Christmas ball, or why it was so important for us to like what was in it. I never understood why she always said that her Christmas ball was her favorite ornament on the tree. It was so old and there were plenty of other better ornaments for her to choose from, yet whenever she was asked which one she liked best, her reply would always be "my Christmas ball."

It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned the answer to all of these. My mother told me why we each have a Christmas ball. She told me how she had one when she was a child because her mother had one from her dying mother. My mom cherished that ornament so much because her mother had cherished hers so much. It was something she grew up with and she wanted us to have the same. She put so much effort into the Christmas ball gift because it held such a big space in her own heart. Her mother's care for the Christmas ball made her care so much about it. In all honesty, I can say that it would not be Christmas for my family if we did not have a Christmas ball. I would gladly give away all my gifts just to have that one. I believe that is the most important part of my family's Christmas. I feel a certain bond, which is more like a love for the Christmas ball. I believe this comes from how strongly my mother feels about hers. We don't realize how what our parents value impact what we value. I have two sisters, and I know that they feel the same way as me.

The tradition will be with me my whole life. My sisters will carry it out too. My eldest sister got engaged this year, and we have added a new ornament to our tree for her fianc . He now takes part in our family tradition. As my sister starts her own family, she will move and she might not be spending Christmas with us. We know that she will always have her Christmas ball which not only remind her of her great grandmother Sarah, but also of her grandmother Edna and her mother Karen.

Some family traditions don't stick to the future generations. Whether the meaning gets lost through the years of whether they are simply outdated, we will never know. Yet it seems that the importance and value that your parents and relatives hold for each tradition make you grow to love it as well. Some traditions seem to be dreadful and there are many I dislike. However, the more I think about how important they are to my family, the more I want to do them with my own family someday. Traditions not only make holiday events seem more special, but they also hold memories for your family. They allow you to keep track of the generations which follow the tradition, and the meaning behind it.