For some reason, I found myself thinking that holiday traditions can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we can find absolute comfort in the consistency that comes with anticipated traditions. On the other hand, traditional redundancy, i.e., eating or doing the same thing every holiday, can lull even the most festive of holiday purists into a state of languor.
How dare I utter the words holiday traditions and redundancy in the same sentence, you ask? To that, I submit that secretly some of us have sat around a blazing yule log and asked the question, “What if we shook it up a little this year?” Now I’m not talking about getting crazy. I realize that messing with tradition is a serious matter, but how serious can it be?
Would the world stop spinning if we decided not to serve Uncle Ralph’s favorite pimento cheese dip this year? What if we chose to not adorn the mantel with the ceramic Mr. & Mrs. Claus that mom made at her pottery class?
What level of drama would ensue once Uncle Ralph figured out his dip of choice was not available? Would he realize that Mr. & Mrs. Claus were not on the mantel, put two and two together and call for a full-on pre-dinner investigation? Ceramic, cheese dip stealing statues are rare, but stranger things have happened…. especially when dip is involved.
Holiday traditions tend to cause anticipation levels to increase momentum as the “big day” looms closer and closer.
I bet that if Uncle Ralph spied a big old bowl of pimento cheese dip in June, we could expect a minimal reaction…See, in June, Ralph is thinking about BBQ and potato chips; his holiday cheese dip anticipation level has not yet kicked in. However, if that boy gets a whiff of the dip in September or October, he’s going straight to Defcon 7. His salivary glands kick into overdrive, his motor functions resemble a zombie at a Slim Jim convention, and he starts audibly counting the days to the holiday. At that point, I don’t recommend anyone get between Ralph and his dip.
Needless to say, messing with tradition and pent-up anticipation could get kind of dicey. Perhaps “shakin’ it up a little” should remain a Yule Log afterthought? Perhaps the whole “anticipation of a tradition thing” is the reason fruit cake made it into the 21st Century?
This little mental experience reminded me that I should celebrate traditions for what they do for the holiday. Things like pimento cheese dip and egg nog mean much more than comfort and consistency. Traditions bring people together. Traditions build bonds between generations, which then tie the young to the old and vice versa. Traditions are the glue that keep families from fragmenting yet provide an opportunity for all those crazy holiday family dynamics. Traditions allow us to say things like “because that is what we do” without feeling any responsibility to justify why we do it that way. Traditions are redundant…and that’s ok…that’s what makes them traditional.
Have a wonderful, traditional holiday!
-President & CEO