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Holidays time to ponder, celebrate traditions

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One of the big reasons leisure travel is so popular is that it allows us to step into a completely different frame of mind. "Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes," sang Jimmy Buffet. The destination helps establish the mindset.

Going back to the home of our youth can reconnect us to our personal pasts -- there are times when I worship at the church of my childhood and I feel 10 years old again. Travelling to historical sites can connect us to our national heritage -- stories about a Revolutionary War battle come alive after having walked the field where the battle occurred. Lounging on the beach lets us completely decompress with our chair planted in the sand, the sun gently warming, and the sea breezes keeping everything fresh -- the Caribbean Islands have their allure, especially in the midst of a cold Colorado winter.

Travelling connects us to something else, something more than daily life. Seeing past the horizons adds spice to life. But most of us have limited opportunities to travel -- it is expensive and leave days can evaporate quickly.

Fortunately, changing latitudes isn't the only way to change attitudes. There are ways to expand our experiences right at home. Observing traditions is an important way to step into a completely different frame of mind. Our traditions, religious and secular, national and personal, military and civilian, can add meaning and purpose to life.

Traditions can be frequent such as a weekly family game night, or infrequent such as an annual celebration of holidays such as the 4th of July or Christmas. Traditions can be complex, complete with parties and decorations. Or they can be simple like praying before meals or sipping a cup of coffee each morning as the sun rises.

When we intentionally observe traditions, we have the opportunity to expand our mind and our experience. For example, a few electric lights can give meaning to a simple pine tree. The notes of our national anthem sounding through loudspeakers at five in the evening can give meaning to our daily routine.

Our traditions also often offer comfort and support. For example, funeral traditions offer to help us by making understandings of faith available in the midst of grief. Wedding traditions, such as the vows, provide a foundation for the values that have helped many to have successful marriages. Some couples revisit the power of the wedding traditions by renewing their vows after many years of marriage just as some revisit the location of their honeymoon to add a spark to their marriage.

Finally, traditions are an important and effective way to educate the young. Our traditions share our values and connect us to our history. Families who celebrate Christmas may use a whole series of traditions to communicate the religious significance of the holiday. The military has many traditions such as changes of command, promotions and retirements. These traditions serve to celebrate milestones while educating the next generation in what is important.

Especially in this time of holidays, it is good to stop and ponder our traditions and celebrate the richness they add to our lives.