Carrying on Traditions
In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye is faced with changing times and sings about tradition—the importance of the Papa being the head of the household. His wife, Golde, sings of the Mama and her traditional role in making a proper home. At one point, Tevye states, “Because of traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years…”
Traditions should be an important part of family life. Most families have traditions which are most prevalent during holidays and special family occasions. However, many family traditions eventually die away as generations either forget the importance of certain family ceremonies or they are replaced by newer traditions.
For many years my Aunt Ellen held a family gathering at her house in Limestoneville around the Christmas holiday. I am guessing this may have lasted for nigh on 25 years. But, as cousins, aunts, and uncles moved or passed away to their greater reward, the gathering was no longer held.
This holiday gathering held by my Aunt Ellen was replaced by other family gatherings as the young people who attended it started families of their own and began their own holiday gatherings. So, really, my aunt’s family get together never really went away; it just evolved into other get togethers. The fond memories of our Hagenbuch family communing together at Aunt Ellen’s serves as the basis for continued holiday family times. Another example of this is the Hagenbuch reunion which started in 1935 and ended a few years ago. However, with renewed interest, the reunion may come back to life, bigger and better next year at Oak Grove Lutheran church on June 24.
Starting new family traditions or building on the basis of an old one is very important. It not only gives us a sense of cohesiveness within a family, but also gives us a sense of the past, present, and future. Traditions can be varied and different.
For several years our immediate family—our three children and their spouses—could not find the means to get together at one time. Andrew and Sara lived in California, Julie lived in various places including Mexico, and Katie and Nelson lived in New York City, New Jersey, and finally Maine. Sometimes it takes a wake up call to start a tradition.
Out of the negative news last year about my prostate cancer has come several positive elements which are growing into traditions. It was decided last year by my family that we needed something tangible to represent our strong commitment to each other. So, last summer Andrew and I took a trip to the homestead area in Berks County and, with the help of a local acquaintance, we obtained several pieces of bacon stone—the building material used for the early Hagenbuch homes.
One of those pieces of stone was erected in my backyard last summer and, as a family, we orally pledged our support to each other. Whenever any of the family visit us here at our home in Dillsburg, we cannot help but see that piece of bacon stone standing strong and upright in the backyard. It is a symbol of our past as Hagenbuchs, a symbol of the present as a family, and a symbol of the future for the coming generations, now represented by our first grandchild, Hadley Faye Emig.
Another positive family tradition that has come from my negative illness is our annual gathering in September for the Prostate Cancer walk/run held at City Island, Harrisburg. Last year, with Katie, Nelson and Hadley in Maine, and Andrew and Sara living in California, only our daughter Julie could walk with our team to raise money for ZERO, the prostate cancer organization.
However, this year our Mainers took the long trek south to be with the rest of our family; Andrew and Sara have moved back to Pennsylvania; and Julie was again present to participate in the walk/run. With Linda and me, with our children and granddaughter, and with other family and friends, my team raised over $6700 in donations, the second highest amount of donations for the Harrisburg area.
I believe that this will become a family tradition; not only the walk/run to raise money to fight this dreaded disease which I now know all too well, but also the get together during the day of the walk/run when we are together as a family at our home in Dillsburg (bacon stone in the yard!). There may be other times during the year when our immediate family can be together, but a tradition has been created now that we have a common goal to raise money for prostate cancer research which will directly benefit me, the “Papa”!
Traditions are more than family gatherings. They can also be the passing on of ceremonies and materials. Before my parents passed away, they had identified items to give to my children when they married. Katie and Nelson received a mantel clock (it still works) which was a wedding gift to my parents. Andrew and Sara received a wash bowl and pitcher which was in our farm house for many years.
My wife, Linda, was fortunate to have been given a high chair that belonged to her grandmother, Edna (Krall) Brandt. That high chair is now used by our granddaughter Hadley when she comes to visit—a 5th generation traditional piece. My father usually wore a straw hat when he mowed the yard (a reminder to him of his farm days). The beaten and weathered hat is now worn by me when I mow the yard. And, along with these traditions, whenever the children come back home here to Dillsburg, I fly the Hagenbuch flag!
There have been many articles written for hagenbuch.org that have promoted the saving and cherishing of letters, photos, and family icons. Another piece of raising the family standard to greatest heights is the creation and propagation of traditions, be they reunions or material items. Continue to promote your family traditions.
Send us a family tradition that you take pride in. We’ll feature it in a future article.