One of the top songs in the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof is “Tradition.” Raising a family of faith in a secular culture, we share the struggles of Tevye, the father in the musical. In all families traditions create bonds of shared values and experience among that small community. Our mother Church recognizes this when she refers to the family the “domestic church”. In our family one of our favorite traditions revolves around a Red Plate with the words “You are special today” encircling the rim.
I originally encountered the Red Plate when it was given to us as a wedding gift. Twenty-six years later this plate makes frequent appearances throughout the year. Most recently it was used to serve birthday cake to our daughter’s college roommate Yumiko, a Japanese exchange student, as she celebrated her birthday at our home. It also comes out for anniversaries, birthdays, scholarship awards, theater auditions, good grades, and even the first dinner with the family following cancer treatments. Basically, it is an instrument of affirmation and support focusing positive attention on a family member. It is a reminder to the recipient that they are valued, loved and special to us all.
In practice, the plate is exchanged at the table for someone’s regular plate, most often at dinner; an important together time for our family. It does make appearances for breakfast, lunches and desserts, but dinner is where we most frequently use it. Others we have heard about are very creative, some sneaking it into the kitchen at a restaurant for a particularly memorable dinner (anniversary, college graduation…)
In a tension filled world, where we often encounter snarky comments, negativity and stress, the Red Plate Tradition is a breath of fresh air; a touch of love, lightness and restoration. Some reviewers of the plate have called it “a self esteem dream” or “a must buy for showers, wedding and new babies.” We call it a family tradition. One we have already passed to the next generation as our oldest son married.
When our catholic store started 11 years ago, the Red Plate was one of the first items we included. It is not a “religious” item except in the way that is embodies the command to “love one another”, which personally, I think is a pretty important religious principle. So, as for me and my house, we will celebrate the Red Plate tradition. We have a place for you too, join us.