Holidays only mean something because we assign meaning to it. Traditions, such as hanging decorated socks, can be completely bizarre to others outside the culture. Other traditions, however, like lighting the menorah, can be deeply symbolic and important to those who hold the tradition. However, we still are assigning value to actions that, by themselves, mean nothing special. Lighting a candle means nothing. Putting a tree inside the house seems more ridiculous than celebratory. Eating certain foods is irrelevant if all you need is to provide sustenance.
Saying that we ‘assign value’, however, seems wrong somehow. We don’t tend to think of value as given, more as innate. Our initial emotional reaction to defend our traditions as something that is sacred, no matter who is involved. We want to believe that some alien from a foreign planet would be able to tell that these almost random compilation of behaviors is something more than just that.
However, on the day of our celebrations, it doesn’t quite live up to our expectations. We are alone or we argue with those who are there. We get presents we don’t really want, or get what we want and have to be with people instead of being able to use it. Even our traditions, we can fail to carry them out because life happens to get in the way. It’s important to keep assigning value to these days though. It doesn’t matter if nothing turns out like a hallmark movie; we need special days.
Even if we just are assigning random behaviors and days as special, they are still special. Hoping for our ideals motivates us to bigger and better things. Making time for family and friends grows our connections to others. Being thankful to those who are dear to us reminds us how dear they truly are. Our traditions are just actions, but knowing what they are doesn’t mean they lose their power.