Anyone else humming the timeless tune from Fiddler on the Roof this week?
I couldn’t get it out of my head so I went to Youtube to watch it. Guess what I discovered? A goldmine! The movie starts off with the Papa talking about how dangerous it is to be a fiddler on a roof because you could fall. He then asks this questions of the Jews who live in the town of Anatevka, in the Russian Empire, in 1905: How do we keep our balance?
“That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!
“Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. We have traditions for everything. How to sleep, how to eat, how to work, how to wear clothes. You may ask, how did these traditions get started? . . . I don’t know, but because of our traditions, everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”
Then there’s the whole part where they sing the Papa, the Papa! The papa! The papa! (Remember? and then) The Mama, the Mama! The sons! The daughters!
The song ends: “Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as . . . as . . . a fiddler on the roof.”
Well, we might not need to elevate traditions to quite that level; but in light of this week’s theme, I have been thinking about their role in our lives overseas.
Traditions help place us in broader stories. They remind us of where we’ve come from and who has gone before us. They can anchor us to people and places. They create new routines and rhythms.
I grew up in a family that was rich with traditions. My mom’s philosophy was that traditions didn’t need to cost a lot of money, they just needed to be consistent. Moving overseas was a chance for some of those traditions to continue, some to be adapted, some to be left behind, and others to be created.
We wanted to take time while it’s still early in the month for us to talk about traditions so that you have time to reflect and we have time to share with each other. You never know when you might hear a new idea you want to try! One of the richest parts of living overseas was getting to share traditions I grew up with and the flip side of getting to partake in my teammates traditions.
I was delighted on December 1st to receive a text message from a former teammate saying she was thinking of me and my family as we had our special December 1st breakfast. (My sister also got a text as many know what a big deal it is to our family.)
Let’s break this down and look at different categories:
First year on the field
- If this is your first year on the field, what are some of your family or country traditions that you already have in play or you hope will be a part of this holiday season? What are you especially missing this year?
- If you’re single, what would you like to share with your teammates? This is one of the costs for you, you’re away from people who have known you. Are there any traditions you will continue on your own? Or invite others to join you in?
- If you’re married or married with kids and it’s your first year on the field, part of your cost is being away from in-laws and grandparents and maybe siblings and cousins for your kiddos. What traditions are you hoping to implement?
- For all of you, what traditions are you missing and, truth-be-told, grieving?
- What new traditions might you try?
Been on the field for a while:
- What traditions have you established on the field that you look forward to each year?
- If you’re single, how open are teammates or locals to hearing about and joining in your traditions?
- If you’re married, what traditions have you found that anchor you and your family to the bigger story of your family or passport country?
- How might this year be different from past years? Any ways you need to adapt your traditions?
If you know this is your last year on the field for a while (maybe ever):
- What are you looking forward to this year, knowing it may be your last chance to experience it?
- Honestly, what will you not miss about holidays in your host country?
If you are on home assignment or furlough this year:
- What will you miss from your host country and the ways you celebrated Christmas there?
- What are you looking forward to participating in with your family, church, or friends?
The father in Fiddler on the Roof was right, traditions do help us to keep our balance. I can’t wait to hear about how you have kept your balance or found new ways to keep it on the field.
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