Day #10 – Traditions
I try to wrap my head around Holiday traditions. We like to do something over and over because why? I know of a lot of families that have a number of holiday traditions but I doubt most of them really understand why they do them. They just do because that’s the way it has always been done.
I will give you some examples from my life and growing up the traditions that my family held. My family did these every year and until I got to the age where I could opt out of going I had to participate as well. The holidays began with dinner on Thanksgiving at my grandparents with all the relatives who lived near us. Now my grandparents did not live in a big house, so when you have 25 or more people crammed into a little space it makes for some really “pleasant” times. There would be a table in every room except the bedrooms and bathrooms. We would be seated by age and each table had its own plates of food. I don’t remember much more than that, but I know we never went home until it was late at night.
Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas my other set of grandparents had the other side of the family get together. There would be close to 40 people so they always went to the local church and used their gymnasium. This would be about an hour drive but it was the same. We would go eat and then come home late at night.
On Christmas eve we would again go out to my grandparents for our Christmas program. All 25 of us would try and cram into their main room and each person would take turns reading parts of the Christmas story from the bible. During specific times we would stop and sing Christmas carols. This would last for about 3 hours or more hours and then right before we left, my grandparents would give each grandchild a stocking stuffed with candy and nuts and a small toy.
The next morning, Christmas Day, we would get up and do 3 traditions before we went back out to my grandparents for Christmas dinner. I will only mention one of the 3 traditions because they are so odd that anyone reading this who knows about them would know exactly who I am. For one of the 3 traditions we would get up and before we opened presents go to a facility for the elderly and we would go and hand out donuts and coffee and talk with the residents. Out of everything that we did during this time, this was the only one I enjoyed.
So what purpose did all these traditions serve? Some might say that it was trying to teach us what the true meaning of the holiday season really is before all the consumerism took over. But for me it just reinforced things that I was understanding from a very young age and that was I was different than the rest of my family and I was treated very differently. These traditions only gave me an opportunity to see how other families related to each other and played with each other. Was this the purpose of the traditions? I doubt it. Did I enjoy going to my grandparents over and over, not at all. So why do people feel the need to do things year after year. Is it a way to stay connected to the past? To reflect on those memories you had when you did the traditions when you were little, maybe. In today’s world of technology and consumerism most traditions are thrown by the wayside because the value of them is gone. The newer generations can’t understand how different the past used to be.
I did not know where I was going with this post when I first started writing. I wasn’t sure about how I was grinchy about traditions but now I get it. Traditions are a link to the past but often the past is better left there. Traditions can hold you back. They can keep you stuck in place while the world moves by you. My wife’s family has traditions as well. She wanted to keep those traditions alive in our family. However, she quickly learned that we are not her family. We are our own family and with it we may create our own “traditions”. Something that means more to us than anyone could understand.
So am I grinchy about traditions? Yes, unless they are deeply personal to you and your family. Otherwise what purpose do they really serve. If you want to keep those memories intact, about how you were part of those traditions when you were younger, then don’t taint them with the farce of a holiday season that we now have. Our kids are so different that the generation we grew up with often have a hard time empathizing with others. This lack of empathy makes it difficult for them to understand the emotional connection you may have with these events. To them we are just wasting time giving donuts to old people when they could be on their new toys. They would text their friends as the handed out the coffee and miss the conversations and connections they could make with a generation that is so vastly different than us that they cannot even fathom that they may have not had a cell phone, computer, or TV.
I am grinchy about traditions that are done just for the sake of them being a tradition. If there is no meaning then there really is no purpose. So why waste your time. If there is not something to learn from this tradition then why do it? I really think that as we get older we need to create traditions that teach our kids about the differences in our generations, but then I would probably have to learn how to text and I don’t know that I am ready for that yet.