10/21/2013 05:54 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2013

Why Are Holiday Traditions So Important?

Halloween is almost here, and children and their parents are beginning the hustle and bustle of their traditions that accompany the feeling of being together. I have begun to wonder when the pumpkin ice cream is going to be available in the stores. My thoughts wander, as they always do, back to a little girl in a tap dancing costume who was so excited for Halloween that sleep the night before was impossible -- especially given the prospect of candy and a Halloween parade. The thrill of pretending and the wonder of feeling so giddy took the place of any semblance of a normal day. I knew that everyone was going to be watched, including me. I knew what my best third grade friend, Nancy, was going to be, and I knew that my teacher was going to be dressed in something that would make me smile. I knew that I would collect a lot of candy when I went trick-or-treating. My parents would pay me a penny for the little candies, a nickel for the middle-sized candies and a quarter for the big ones! I was allowed to choose my favorite five candies for myself, and with the money I received from my parents, I somehow always had the right amount for whatever toy I chose at the toy store. My mother correctly figured that any toy would cost less than my constant trips to the dentist with cavities! Halloween also meant that Thanksgiving was not far away.

Each of the holidays meant family and friends to me. We would be together for the enjoyment of being together. There would be parties and decorations, school vacations and goodies to eat. The anticipation was always to best part, because it afforded me the opportunity to look ahead and feel happy and secure with my life. Each year, my mother made sure we thought of those who were less fortunate, and we learned to give part of our candy or part of our allowance to those who had less. It was in observing the plight of so many that somehow I always felt empowered and lucky in just what I had. My family was never part of the super wealthy, but I always felt that what I had in the love around me made me the wealthiest of all.

My grandson told me that he always is expected to give a third of his money away to those less fortunate. A third of his money is to be saved for college, and a third he is can spend on what he wants to buy. I was surprised to find such understanding in a child of 5, but I was pleased to see him learn such a good lesson. I wish more of the world worked that way. Most importantly, I know that these decisions were made together with his parents who are trying so hard to help him learn what is important.

When Thanksgiving comes I will be telling the same story that I have told for the last 40 years. It will be about how we almost lost our little baby girl the night of Thanksgiving 40 years ago, and how I vowed to always be extra grateful if she just survived. Everyone's eyes will roll with boredom, and someone will comment about my telling "that story" again. I will pretend I don't notice, and feel happy that I am still here to tell my story.

When Chanukah and Christmas arrive I will get the decorations out of the garage and spend time looking at the little clay menorah my son made for us 42 years ago and the little beaded star that my daughter brought home from school 30-some years ago. There will by new additional treasures made by my six grandchildren, and each will hold a special place in my heart filled with love of them and the traditions we have shared throughout the years.

After the New Year arrives I will gently store everything away, and I will be so, so grateful for another year of blessings of family and traditions and the ability to be here with those whom I love and have loved so, so much.