The Journal Tradition by Kalie | Blogmas 2017 Day 14


Do you have family traditions?  Something that you take for granted or thought normal for years, until you ask someone else how they spend Christmas, and you realize that your family is a little weird?  My family is a little weird, but in a good, sentimental way.It’s a few weeks before Christmas, and the Manko family is pulling out all the Christmas decorations from under the stairwell in the basement.  The (fake) Christmas tree, garland, lights, candles, Christmas cookie jar, etc… and The Journal.  It’s a composition notebook covered in green fabric with decades worth of traditions and stories written within its worn pages.  The Journal has traveled across states and been exchanged between many hands for more than two decades.  It was started in 1993 by my Mom, who was week into marriage, and within the last twenty-four years, four new female voices were added to the family.  My sisters and I each graced The Journal with our childish scrawl when we were old enough, like a coming-of-age ceremony.  Each entry tells the story of a different person - either from my immediate family or from a member of my dad or mom’s family - which summarizes the author’s twelve months since the previous Christmas.  It’s my family’s tradition, but my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are dragged in every year they’re with us for Christmas (we switch back and forth between families for Christmas every year).

My mom’s side writes complacently, and dutifully summarizes their year when asked.  My dad’s family, however, is a different breed of sarcasm and complaints.  Normally, they push it off until the last couple days of vacation, complaining all the while.  Their playful protests have become part of the tradition of The Journal, and  although my aunts and uncles put up a fuss, they still make their entry every time.

As a writer myself, I feel challenged by The Journal to create a moving, inspiring, and humorous summary of my year.  Every year I try to balance out the details of the monumental events with the sprinkles of important tidbits, and every year I get frustrated when my masterpiece doesn’t measure up to my expectations.  None of my words seem worthy of inscribing in The Journal, but it is not just one entry that creates the magic of The Journal, it’s all of them.  It is the emotion and warmth behind the pen that creates the importance of The Journal, and keeps its tradition alive.

I used to think its pages were sacred and that it was an integral part of everyone’s Christmas, but now I recognize it as my family’s tradition.  Each piece of my house, especially during the Holiday season, creates a portrait that is 100% Manko.  I will never be able to recreate my childhood memories and traditions exactly; those times now live solely in my memories.  Traditions take on their own meaning and become bigger than us at times, but when everything else fades that fabric covered composition notebook is just a journal.  It is magic because of the warmth and care that we pour into it, not because of its own power.  If traditions are not held on to they become meaningless, because the only way to create meaning out of nothing is human emotion.  Everyone has the power to create a little magic in their household if they try hard enough.

My First Entry (2006):

Hello, this year we all got to open a present early. I got a skip-it. We had a change in plans.  We are going to grandmas and grandpas house on a plane instead of car. This has been the best Christmas ever!

// kalie

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