What’s the Point?

As I clipped the quaint silver cross onto a fir branch I took a good look at it. A little shabby, bare on the edges, bits of broken wire on some of the corners.  Years ago we spray painted it and sprinkled on fresh glitter to spiffy it up, but it’s still looking a little dilapidated. I suppose it has a right to be. It’s as old as I am, and I’m a little worn around the edges myself.


My parents bought this ornament the year I was born and it has been on every one of my Christmas trees. We have a half dozen other old fashioned ornaments that were on my grandparents’ trees and have been passed through the family ranks, too. None of them are really beautiful anymore, and look a little out of place among the newer baubles, but we treasure them anyway.


We have a delicate white baptismal dress and underslip that has been worn by three generations of babies in our family over a period of almost seventy-five years… all but two of the babies also cuddled into a handmade white shawl that is fifty years old.


Ask any of my family about Christmas fruitcakes and you’ll hear that they have to be made on November 11th as they have been every year since I started making them back in the 1960s, and every family member present must take a turn stirring the batter, regardless of their age. (We won’t mention the ongoing argument about whether dark or light cakes are better tasting!)

Traditions. How do they get started? What makes them endure? And do traditions find their way into your writing? What do they tell readers about your characters?


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

16 thoughts on “What’s the Point?

  1. My mother made lots of Christmas ornaments which we cherish to this day and one of our traditions was hot chocolate or eggnog in Christmas cups while we opened presents; then brunch, with mimosas–champagne and orange juice–eggs benedict and steak or ham. The rest of the day we nibbled on nuts, chocolates, pie and ice cream… my first New Years resolution has always been …diet!!!!!!

  2. I love your glittery cross. I think traditions give us a sense of place and belonging and continuity. I think traditions for our characters make them multi-dimensional and more realistic.

  3. Your family has some wonderful traditions. The fruitcake tradition is cool. At least your family learned to appreciate fruitcake. My family won’t eat it except for me. I love it. My family (speaking of generations past) has not many traditions that I know about.

  4. Hmmm. Several of ours are definitely handed down. Some I love. Some I’m glad we’ve discarded like the old cookie dough ornaments.

    Great post, Carol!

  5. I love fruitcake but never get to eat one as the store bought are yucky, and I don’t know anyone who makes them. I could try my hand at it but I don’t have much luck with cakes, just eating them.

  6. Traditions in my writing…hmm…I’ll have to think about that. At my parent’s house we put an angel on top of the tree–it’s the same angel that my mom had on her christmas tree when she was a little girl. She’s 83 years old.

  7. Thanks for all your comments and sharing of traditions. It’s the season to be thinking about them. They’re a symbol to me of my roots. I especially like Erica’s suggestion that they give us a sense of continuity.

  8. I think traditions give stability to life when everything around us leaves us feeling helpless. As NAs we’re luckier than most, but traditions reinforce the reason we keep going. It’s all about family.

    Thanks, Laura. Another great post.

  9. Oooh – do you make the stirring fruitcakes? My mom recently made one and my cousin loved it! (I’m not a huge fruitcake fan – but it was better than most I’ve tasted).

    I hope you have a great time this season sharing all these wonderful traditions with your family!

    1. Thanks, Donna. But I’m not sure what you mean by “the stirring fruitcakes”. I think what we make is a pretty standard recipe… all the candied fruit and nuts mixed together and then added to the rum-flavoured batter. It takes lots of stirring just to get the fruit well mixed in, and originally everyone lent a hand because mine are arthritic, and that became part of the tradition, but I don’t know if that qualifies as a “stirring” kind of fruitcake or if you’re thinking of something else.

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