Traditions to keep

Whether we celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or festivities of the New Year, the holidays are about traditions. Traditions are a way of remembering who we are and what we believe. Traditions honor our ancestors, our roots, our heritage and faiths. And at the end of the calendar year, the holidays and these traditions mark a time to take stock of our lives, to reconnect with loved ones and renew ourselves for the coming year. But even though the definition of the word tradition means that we practice certain rituals in the same way each year, it is curious to note how those customs and practices change over time. The practice of these oft-ancient customs morphs over time into new ones, often in subtle ways we don't even notice.

We begin to incorporate beliefs and practices of those around us in all parts of our lives, how we live and work, what we eat, and words we use. Here Islanders are invited to join in community celebrations of faith, whether it be a religious event or by working together to provide for those devastated by disaster across the world.

New traditions meld with the old as families are redefined by new members, neighbors and changing communities. Children in Mercer Island schools learn all year long about the ways that other cultures celebrate important days.They bring home new ideas and new friends who are eager to share their own way of celebrating.

As a result, in many homes, menorahs share space with Christmas trees or an altar to ancestors. New sounds blend with the familiar. New ideas enrich the old. Our traditions, whether they be secular, religious or family-oriented, are outward signs of beliefs -- about ourselves, our faith and our values and our community. These customs help all of us keep our balance in a time of change.

A very happy holiday season to you all as you celebrate your traditions.

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