Tradition is more than a song the character Tevye sings in the acclaimed Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof. All you have to do is live or work in the Crescenta Valley this time of year to see and enjoy evidence of many of our own local traditions that take many shapes and forms.
At the risk of sounding like some sort of word weenie, while writing this column I learned that the word “tradition” comes from the Latin traditionem, by way of traditio which means “handing over,” or “passing on.” Okay, you can wake up now.
My own definition of the word would have to include the annual Montrose Christmas (thankfully not “Holiday” yet) Parade that twisted and turned its way past thousands of chilly spectators who bundled up to brave the unusually cold temperatures along the route last Saturday evening. This 33 year-old tradition is a local favorite – even when the evening temperatures are balmy enough that Santa could dress in shorts and flip flops.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the parade this year. But I still felt the warm stirrings of Christmas Present (or it could have been the chili we had for dinner) when – down the hill from our home – I heard the distinctive rotor-chop of the helicopter carrying Santa over the parade route.
Another treasured tradition closer to home (for us, at least) are the many miles of light strings and fantastical displays that the family on the northeast corner of Henrietta and La Crescenta avenues install each year the week after Thanksgiving. Not only do we marvel at the work it must take to make this festive display appear, but we always wonder where they store such a Disney-esque amount of decorations during the off season.
We also enjoy the traditional December dual between the neighbors on the 3000 block of Paraiso Way. I’m sure the Shuttle astronauts could easily spot this neighborhood from orbit. I know there are many other neighborhoods throughout the Crescenta Valley that are known for spectacular lighting. In fact, it’s another tradition of ours to drive around in search of new light displays the week before Christmas.
Yet another cherished tradition is attending the Feast of Lights choral performance at CV High. The annual concert of seasonal sacred music was started many decades ago by musical force of nature that is Ms. Shirley Nute, and continues today under the dynamically talented Tammi Alderman.
I’ve written before of our family’s near obsession with Christmas decorations and with making mountains of cut-out cookies with multi-colored icing, so I won’t do it again here. However, I haven’t yet confessed to our passion for making personalized felt stockings that we hang with care and stuff with abandon for our immediate family, including each son- and daughter-in-law and grandkids as they join the tribe. Our mantel overfloweth.
Next, although it’s not exactly a local event, another much-anticipated tradition for me (and two of my sons this year!) is singing alongside a thousand or so other Andrea Bocelli wannabes at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena during their annual Messiah sing-a-long the Sunday night before Christmas. Hallelujah, indeed.
Come Christmas Eve, our family does something we consider nothing short of essential – we gather for the annual Candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church. It is breathtaking to stand together in a filled-to-capacity worship center, singing Silent Night, and one-by-one light our neighbor’s candle with our own – passing to each other the joy, hope and promise of the Light of the world. The room fills with the light of thousands of candles. Our hearts fill with the glow of the season.
In spite of the economic, climatic, or political conditions of any given year, it is traditions like these that remind us and help us focus on how truly blessed we are. May your own family’s traditions bring you great peace and happiness this year and always.
I’ll see you ‘‘round town.
Jim Chase is a lifelong CV resident and freelance writer.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.