The movie ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was released in 1971, but a few years later there was a holiday re-release of the film. And my parents decided to take me and my sister to see it along with some of our extended family. It was being shown at a beautiful, historic theatre with long curtains framing the screen that stayed closed until it was time for the movie to start. That only enhanced our anticipation and, since going to the movies was a rare treat, we were so excited for the show to begin.
Outside, the rain that had started earlier in the day had turned into a full fledged raging storm and we could hear the wind whipping around the theatre and the huge rain drops pummeling the roof. But, since we were midwestern transplants now living in Southern California, we were completely unphased.
As the lights dimmed, the curtains began to slide open and it was time for the show to start. I was just a little girl at the time, but from the first few lines I was hooked. The nuances of the story of the humble milkman, Tevye, and his family may have been slightly over my head. But the songs? The songs were to be forever etched in my mind.
About 30 minutes into the movie, we began to hear rustling in the audience. And then we felt them. Drops of water falling on our heads. As we looked around, we noticed people pointing at the ceiling and realized that it should most definitely NOT be sagging like that. The beautiful curtains framing the screen began opening and closing over and over again and my parents quickly grabbed us and raced out of the building with the other movie goers. It was definitely a memorable experience! And the irony of the roof beginning to cave in as we watched a film with the word ‘roof’ in it was not lost on us.
But, while we may have missed out on seeing the rest of Fiddler on the Roof that day, we managed to hear the most recognizable song from the film before our escape from the theatre.
‘Tradition’ is sung by Tevye and the villagers and, while it is very upbeat and VERY catchy, it gives us a glimpse into the main tension in the story. A Jewish father, clinging to the traditions of his faith and heritage while his daughters push the boundaries of what he deems acceptable and change becomes unavoidable.
This year I realized that the older I get, the more I relate to Tevye.
No, we won’t be selecting our children’s spouses for them (although I think I would do a pretty awesome job!). I won’t force them into a certain type of job or demand that they live in our town for the rest of their lives.
But, the traditions? Well, the traditions I’ll fight for. Not all of them, of course. Because life has a tendency to force us to make adjustments to the way we’ve always done things. We welcome new family members, come up with creative solutions for celebrating long-distance and try to be understanding when, for some reason, our teenagers don’t want to ride the Santa train anymore. Go figure!
Traditions are like an invisible thread that connects the past, present and future together. They provide us with a sense of continuity in a world that is ever-changing.
Traditions bring us so much comfort and stability when everything around us feels as though it’s anything but stable.
And maybe that’s why this year, more than ever, I’ve been clinging to our traditions.
While the world around us is tugging and pulling and trying to break us apart, traditions serve as an opportunity to bring us together and act as an anchor, connecting us to something solid and enduring.
We drive around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, we bake homemade goodies for our neighbors and find ways to give to our community.
My kids are given their special yearly ornament to add to the small Christmas trees in their rooms.
We practice Advent and light a candle each Sunday leading up to Christmas.
I bake my husband’s favorite orange cranberry bread and buy him his own jar of lemon curd so he can slather it on every slice.
Our kids open a special gift on Christmas eve that is just from dad. This is a tradition carried over from my own childhood when my dad realized that he rarely knew what was wrapped in the boxes under the tree since my mom did all of the shopping.
The list of Christmas traditions in our household is long. But, each one is a piece of a puzzle that we slowly put together all month long. Oh, and we LOVE doing Christmas puzzles too!
The reality is, though, that the cookies and the lights and the gifts and the Christmas countdowns don’t really matter all that much without the greatest tradition of all.
The remembrance of the Child born fully God and fully human. The One who came to save us from our wretchedness and offer us redemption.
The One who IS Christmas.
My prayer for you this season, dear friends, is that your traditions will remind you of how God has carried you through your past, will give you encouragement to sustain you in your present, and will give you hope for how He will fulfill His promises for your future.
“Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!”
Merry Christmas to you with love,