For many of us, what brings joy over the holidays is the comfort of knowing what to expect, those family traditions that have endured over the years that we anticipate with delight. Whether it's baking cutout cookies, decorating the tree together while playing Christmas carols and drinking hot coco, or opening presents in pajamas on Christmas morning, most of us celebrate the holidays year after year in the same way, and we love every bit of it!
For others, the holidays are not reminiscent of fond memories of the past that dictate the traditions of today. Rather than traditions of food, laughter, and love, many have experienced only loneliness, abuse, or neglect during this time of year, and those are the only traditions they have. Tradition is defined as "statements, beliefs, or practices handed down from generation to generation" and these can be healthy or toxic, grounding or destructive.
Millions of girls live in a world where tradition prevents them from attending school, tradition requires them to get married as a child, or tradition means female genital mutilation, female feticide or infanticide. In the United States, there are thousands of girls growing up in communities with a tradition of prostitution and sexual violence. In these contexts, tradition is harmful; not something that brings joy and comfort, but something that destroys lives and causes suffering.
As we enjoy our family traditions today, let us be mindful of the many traditions across the globe and in our own communities that are not so joyful. Let us be diligent in continuing to pass down from generation those statements, beliefs, and practices that give dignity and hope to all humanity, and be equally diligent in working to dismantle those traditions that strip people of their humanity and prevent them from reaching their full potential.
On this Christmas Day, we hope you experience the joys and comforts that tradition can bring, even as we pray for those whose traditions have brought only sorrow.