What’s happening at the Library?

Published 11:56 am Thursday, December 22, 2022

By James Gardner

Clark County Public Library

All holidays have one thing in common, whether they fall in the middle of Summer’s blistering heat or they land on the most frigid days of winter: traditions. Traditions are as varied as the holidays that they honor. Some involve lavish dinners, while others are about not eating. Some involve gift giving for that special someone or perhaps giving of yourself. Traditions are, in fact, vital to a holiday’s popularity and longevity. Without traditions, a holiday is simply another date on the calendar that people forget about, like doctor’s appointments and teeth cleanings.

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So traditions are necessary for a holiday to be significant, but that doesn’t mean they should be set in stone either, and that includes all the holiday celebrations/madness of December. Some people might prefer lavish family dinners, while others prefer smaller get-togethers with friends. A thoughtfully wrapped Christmas present is just as meaningful as a day trip that could make a lifetime of memories. One of the most fascinating ideas I have observed in my lifetime as a son and grandson, while also becoming a husband and father, is how traditions evolve.

One of my family’s big holiday traditions happened on Christmas eve. That’s when a great deal of extended family all descended on my grandparents’ house, where we would eat finger foods and exchange presents. Eventually, the family stopped exchanging presents due to the expense, and it became the grandparents getting multiple gifts while they, in turn, got gifts for all of us. Sadly, that tradition briefly went away when both of my grandparents passed, but the tradition is also being reawakened at an uncle’s house. Ultimately, it’s nice to see that particular tradition repackaged, and that’s not even the only holiday tradition I get to celebrate, thanks in no small part to being part of a new family.

My wife brought from her family some different traditions, including the one about Saint Nicholas Day. I initially thought that Saint Nick was just another of Santa’s aliases, like Kris Kringle or Burl Ives (seriously, look at a picture of Burl Ives and tell me that man doesn’t have a chorus of sleigh bells following him wherever he goes). According to Bruce David Forbes’s “Christmas: A Candid History” (394.2663 Forb), Saint Nicholas comes around December 5–twenty days before Santa, mind you–and puts toys and candies in children’s shoes. Usually, this meant that the kids not only got candy and toys, but they would usually get new slippers, and who doesn’t want something warm on their feet when the nights get cold? And then, after many years of being together, I realized that my wife and I have actually started a litany of different traditions together that aren’t necessarily married to a calendar. We watch movies like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Scrooged” (both are owned by the library under DVD Comedy Nati and DVD Comedy Scro, respectively). We also celebrate Jolabokaflod, which is a tradition of exchanging books and eating chocolate (how great is it that there’s a holiday that combines two of my favorite things?).