Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nostalgia and Traditions

Nostalgia and traditions. These words seem to be interrelated especially around the holidays. Nostalgia means a return to home, a wistful yearning for the past that is irrecoverable. While traditions are customs or patterns we repeat or are handed down year, after year. These traditions may originate through cultural, individual, religious beliefs, or created out of a sense of nostalgia. Maybe we try to hang on to those memories of events and loved ones and traditions help us to do that.

Many things can bring about that nostalgic feeling:
A song—ever hear an old song on the radio and feel instantly transported back to high school? Think of a friend you haven’t heard from in years?
A smell—baked bread remind you of your mother’s house? Your grandmother’s?
A taste—every time I eat fried clams I think of camping on Cape Cod when I was a kid.
A location-Drive through a town you haven’t been to in years and see what memories come up. All these things can strike an emotional response, a memory.

Traditions are comforting and help us feel like we belong. Create your own traditions. Since we first met, my husband and I have gone out for a special dinner to a nice restaurant on the eve of Christmas Eve.

An object—a Christmas pin I wear is nostalgic for me. This pin my college chemistry professor gave me when I worked for her for campus employment. I organized the chemical supplies, made reagents for the classes and even bent dozens of glass rods like a glass blower into special shapes. These rods were needed for particular experiments. She said no one else could make these without breaking them, but I think she knew I needed the extra hours of work. I look at the pin and remember a kind and cool professor who was also a nun and flash back to my college days.

A small tradition and also another nostalgic item is from a gift I received. A teddy bear ornament. A co-worker gave it to me about 14 years ago. His name was Jerry. He invited me and a couple friends over for dinner one evening. His mother attempted to show me how to cook the Cuban dish she was making. After dinner, Jerry passed out gifts for us. We knew he was terminally ill but he was looking pretty good. He gave me the bear Christmas ornament. What struck me about the gift was that it was August. I then had a sinking feeling that Jerry wouldn’t make it to Christmas. He didn’t. Since then, I hang the ornament on the tree every year.

Writing Tip: Can you include a nostalgic item or a tradition into your story? This can build emotion into the story and also tell us about your character's background without info. dump.

What traditions do you have? What ones would you like to start?

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