Assembling the ingredients to make “turtles”, Grandma’s favorite candy.
Bryan is a man of habit. Of ritual. Of sameness. Of upholding tradition be it at the holidays or other times of the year.
When I approached him to see if he would be game for changing up his yearly pretzel candy for a new type, he took a little convincing. However, after mentioning this was Grandma’s most-loved candy, he then readily agreed. (Interestingly, when I told my mom that Bryan was making her favorite treat, she couldn’t remember what it was! At 101 1/2, I’ll give her a pass. I’m sure the taste will evoke the memory.)
Each year, Bryan comes to our home for candy making to share with his myriad staff members, friends and family. This is usually followed by the wrapping of his presents to give to family and friends. Some gifts travel back to his apartment to reside under the tree until being excitedly given to staff and friends. The rest hang out at our house until the Big Day.
That experience was a bit rushed this year, but we managed to accomplish most of our goal. The tradition of listening to, and then conducting his favorite Christmas recording of the Willcocks arrangements of “O Come all Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald”, delayed our progress. Then we whisked him off to church, loaded down with bags of candy and gifts, in order for him to hear our dress rehearsal of Handel’s “Messiah”.
The rehearsal was three hours long, but Bryan gamely listened to it all with interest. When the “Hallelujah Chorus” began, he popped up from his seat to stand for the duration. Halfway through, the glasses came off, the head went back, and the hands came into a prayerful pose as he relished in the performance. How he loves his music! This tradition of standing comes from King George II many years ago – the real reason unknown. Several theories abound – he was so moved by the music he leapt to his feet; his gout was bothering him and he had to go to the bathroom; he was angry at the intense gymnastics the soloists had to go through during the performance; his legs needed a good stretch. No matter the case, the tradition still stands and I was kind of proud that Bryan, a steadfast Anglophile, knew about this expected behavior – passed down since 1743.
This Christmas weekend will be full of more traditions – old ones revived and new ones established. I’m hoping Bryan will be able to roll with more changes. His sister will have us over on December 24th for the first time in their new home as a new mom. There will be no massive chocolate chip cookie bake that has happened on that day for many years, shared baking between brother and sister. We will open presents at their house rather than ours. BUT we will all be together sharing gifts, sharing love, and sharing laughter. We will be worshipping at a different church together – another new tradition.
At the heart of all of the revelry, celebration and tradition lies the simple birth of a baby which has changed countless lives for over 2000 years. We all are humbled and rejoice in it during these days of preparation and into the new year. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a tradition that will never end, even though our own personal traditions may shift and morph as the years go by. Thanks be to God for His priceless gift!