Sept2013headshotDecember, quite fittingly, is national fruitcake month!  There are many different types of fruitcake, which take many different forms and what do they all have in common? Dried fruit! A brief sampling of fruitcakes: United Kingdom, Christmas Cake; France, gateau aux fruits; Germany, Stollen; Italy, Panforte and Panettone; Lithuania , vaisiu pyragas; Portugal, Bolo Rei; Romania, Cozonac; Spain, Bollo de higo; and I am sure many, many more.  A brief history of the origins of fruitcake can be found here. In spite of the much maligned, fruitcake, it endures just as our holiday traditions endure.

With the change of seasons, holiday decorations and fruitcakes begin to appear in the market, thoughts naturally turn to family traditions, celebrations, and many, many more thoughts about family, parents, grandparents and the ancestors who came before us. Thoughts about fruitcakes and all of the variations that each culture created, leads to thoughts of holiday food traditions. Regardless of family living near or far, faith or religious practice, the very thought of the holiday season can take you back to memories of those special flavors from your youth.  For many the memories are sweet. For many the memories are sour. Most often they are both sweet and sour.  Fortunately, you can learn to cherish beloved memories, heal painful ones, and create new memories and traditions, embracing what you value most, right now today.

This holiday season is a great time to reflect on the traditions you find meaningful, comforting, and joyful – those which connect you to the past, present, and future.  You can liberate yourself from the traditions that you continue because, ‘this is the way grandma always did it,’ if the tradition is something that truly does not speak to you.  You can also integrate a tradition that maybe was not one your family participated in, yet is one that speaks to you today.

Traditions can grow and evolve.

For instance, when my husband and I married, I brought most of the traditions from my Italian American heritage to our Christmas celebrations.  My husband enjoys the special Christmas cookies and such, but there really was not a sweet that looked anything like his childhood memories of Christmas sweets.  We needed to create a new tradition, special to our new family, that respects both of our histories while at the same time gives new meaning to the family we created.  Just as our marriage is possible, because our great-great grandparents immigrated to the United States from very different parts of Europe, we needed to combine Italian, Irish, English, and Lithuanian traditions.  And we did. Now there is a place for each of these traditions at the table and one of our most anticipated and favorite holiday sweets, is the Irish Fruitcake!

This holiday season; take a few moments out of the holiday hustle and bustle.  Truly practice the renewal of beloved traditions that keep our links to the past comforting. Let go of those that are disappointing and create something special just for you and yours.

I wish you the most peaceful holiday.

Tracie Strucker Ph.D., LCMFT

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