By Abe Villarreal

I like it when I learn of old tricks-of-the-trade that where once commonly used by people who needed a shortcut or something to hide.

Like a flask of liquor in a Bible. I've always wondered when this tradition began and how it might have become one of those open secrets. Maybe it was a fiery fundamentalist preacher with one hand waving in the air and the other hand holding a Bible made up of a front cover, a back cover, and six ounces of gin in between.

I'm sure it takes a lot to condemn your fellow brethren for all the sins of the world while also ignoring your own. A good shot of spirits will make you forget the true evils of the world.

I'm not sure the flask in the Bible tradition is much in favor these days. It may have left with the tradition of hiding jewelry in the flour jar. I watched an episode of The Golden Girls once where Blanche, the southern belle, was covered in flour after searching for her precious lost jewels that had been taken by robbers during a home invasion.

I always wondered why someone would hide jewelry in flour. Maybe it's too much work for robbers to empty out a flour jar as they hurry through the house and look in other seemingly obvious places like the freezer or the sock drawer. Maybe even thieves are gluten-free these days.

And then there are those not-so-quirky American family traditions that many of us wish we still practiced. Like the family dinner. During a recent trip to Baltimore, I spoke to an Italian lady who practically ran the local Little Italy neighborhood. She said that they still practiced family dinner every Sunday night. Doing it somehow kept the neighborhood a community.

Not all neighborhoods are communities. They are places where people live, but don't really exist as units of people communicating, sharing, and helping each other. The return of family dinners might help us get back to that.

More recently, we've lost traditions that have been swept away with the digital revolution and the quickly changing habits of consumers. Just a generation ago, daughters and dads would visit video rental stores together. They would look at VHS boxes together. Turn to the backside of the rental box together and read the movie plots together. They would walk to the checkout counter together and pick up oversized candies together. Then they would drive home and join the rest of the family to watch a Friday night movie together.

There is a reason why a tradition becomes a tradition and will usually stand the test of time. It's something that was meaningful enough for enough people to keep it going. Some of them silly, like a flask in a Bible, some of them not so silly, like going to church together every Sunday – a tradition that is currently falling out of favor.

I like to learn of those traditions that help keep us together as families and as communities. They might seem insignificant, but to someone, or to a family somewhere, they are important. If hiding your most valuable jewels in the flour jar is something you do because your grandma did it, keep on doing it.

If having your family come together to decorate the Christmas tree while listening to Nat King Cole sing The Christmas Song, keep on doing it.

Quirky not, holding on to something special is worth holding on to it (unless it's vodka in the New Testament).

Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in America. He can be reached at abevillarreal@hotmail.com.

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