Ronni Hannaman: Tradition is a big part of the holidays

Tradition is a very big part of each of our lives. For those of you who have seen the classic film, “Fiddler on the Roof,” you will remember the opening song is called “Tradition” when Tevye explains, “Tradition keeps us in balance for many, many years. We don’t know how it started, but it’s tradition!”

During the holidays, we realize how much tradition means to us. Some of the traditions we observe have been passed down for centuries, others are passed down from family and some traditions are now being made as new families start their own. To be considered a tradition, it can take 20-30 years.

The Chamber office shares land with the Nevada State Railroad Museum and on special occasions such as during the Christmas holiday weekends, I see how important tradition is and how these traditions are being passed on to the young. Grandparents, parents and children all excitedly come to ride the Santa Train, now in its 34th year of making memories. The Polar Express is now in its 8th season and as Brooke Vierra asserts on the V&T website, “We are planning on doing it every year as a family tradition.” The Candy Cane Express Train with Santa in Virginia City is another memory maker.

The word tradition isn’t about the new, it’s about the old, and as T.S. Eliot wrote, “Tradition is how the vitality of the past enriches the life of the present.” Perhaps this is why so many are resistant to change, for part of that change could change tradition – “or we have always done it that way” - meaning it has become tradition.

Traditions are handed down through stories, beliefs, ritual and customs. Carson City has many stories, beliefs, rituals and customs that make us a very special place, indeed. And, our traditions are what make us a community as our mayor likes to remind us at every chance.

We love our history and don’t want it to be swallowed up by the new. We love our holidays, the most talked about being Nevada Day. First held on Oct. 31, 1938, everything seems to revolve around this four-hour parade to the point that construction MUST be completed by Nevada Day and everyone is in a frenzy until the parade is held. It’s a big deal here and this year’s 80th anniversary was no different as the construction contractor worked day and night seven days a week to ready the city for the big Nevada Day downtown “reveal.” Why is it so important to look our best on Nevada Day? “It’s tradition!”

Another beloved tradition started 30 years ago is the Silver and Snowflakes Festival of Lights held the first Friday following Thanksgiving. Carson’s fifth graders have been singing on the Capitol steps all these years as family and friends looked on. I am told the audience sings along with the kids, remembering the days when they too learned these very same songs in school. This festival has grown to attract thousands to the downtown for a very special night to kick off the holiday season and to fall in love again with their small town.

This was the 199th Holiday Treat Concert and the 35th year the Carson City Symphony brought their Holiday Treat Concert to the community center theater. Truly a tradition.

Another tradition we all love and appreciate is the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner started by the then-owners of the Carson Nugget in 1957. There have been a number of owners since then, but all have carried on this tradition to feed those without families or who otherwise may not be able to enjoy this traditional meal. There are other newer traditions in the making: Cookies with Santa at Adele’s, Empty Bowls to benefit the homeless, the visit to senior by Friends to All, Holiday with a Hero, and so many more.

What’s the holiday season without the sound of the ringing of the Salvation Army bell? That tradition has been around since 1871 to provide holiday dinner for the poor.

The Marine Toys for Tots effort began in 1947 when the wife of a Marine Reservist in Los Angeles collected 5,000 toys to distribute to needy children. So successful was the first drive that the Marine Corps adopted the Toys for Tots program in 1948, taking it nationwide. The tradition remains to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children,” and is today administered by the Ron Wood Family Resource Center.

We value our traditions any time of the year, but more so during the holidays when it seems we are all sort of on the same page. Unfortunately, in our fast paced world, we sometimes forget the tradition behind the holiday.

As we rely more and more on our computers and become less and less homogenous, it is harder to hold on to traditions that mattered and as author Frank Sonnenberg writes on his online blog, “Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become. Once we ignore the meaning of our traditions, we’re in danger of damaging the underpinning of our identity.”

As Carson City continues to change to meet the needs of the future, it is important to hold on to our traditions to keep that sense of identity that made this city the city it is today. As we look to the future, we must know our past.


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