I put the “ditch” in tradition


So I thought…

Everybody has traditions. Now, lest you think that I’m being a poor writer and beginning an entry with an obvious and basically meaningless observation, I bring it up because until recently, I have considered myself to be pretty much nontraditional (in that I did not have much need for tradition).

Now of course, we all have things that we do every year. Christmas Eve with dad’s family, Christmas Day with stepmom’s family (or whatever your particular variation on that theme happens to be), etc. And so, yeah, I guess those count. But while I have always participated in traditions, I’m not sure how much I valued them. That makes me sound awful, I know. But understand, I absolutely value spending time with my family, and of course I love seeing them around the holidays. What I have always felt at odds with is the idea of tradition itself. “Tradition for tradition’s sake” is usually the way I phrase it.

But there’s no better way to point out major elements of your self of which you were previously unaware than to introduce someone new into your life. Like a Scatterbrained Seminarian, for example.  With another person comes an entirely other set of traditions, and it was in the attempted coordination of those traditions with my own normal holiday plans that made me aware that I’m much more traditional than I had ever known.

What it comes down to is that tradition has always seemed annoying to me. Like I said before, I love my family, and I enjoy spending time with them, but the idea that I was somehow expected or even required to adopt a particular set of plans, year after year, even as an adult, irritated me beyond words. Usually I did adopt those plans, at least in part, but any semblance of obligation went mostly ignored. And it certainly helps that my family has always been pretty relaxed regarding holiday attendance: we’re adults, and life is complicated; they get it. Not everyone can be everywhere every year.

So yes, I see my family at some point for every holiday (or nearly — double the families, double the scheduling conflicts). Until recently, I never put down the reason behind that as “tradition.” Imagine my surprise to find out that those traditions (and others — some that I didn’t even know were traditions!) are actually super important to me. And not just because I enjoy them. It’s also…yes, because they’re traditions.

It happened during a discussion of one of the aforementioned scheduling conflicts. The long version isn’t important. The short one is that plans for Christmas flip-flopped a couple of times, and while I am usually one to roll with the punches, especially where scheduling is concerned, I found myself sad and more than a little angry at the idea of missing out on my own traditions.

Huh. I did not see that coming.

Everything actually worked out very well. We worked the problem, talked through it, and both got to see our families for Christmas Eve and Christmas.

If there’s a lesson in this, I guess it’s that it is crucial to be clear with the people you love about what is important to you, and in order to do that you have to be clear with yourself about it first. I’m not really sure how to go about doing that deliberately; for me it happened by accident. And I was lucky that when that hole in my self-awareness became evident to me, I got to work through it with somebody as caring and understanding (and patient) as Rachel.

I hope that all of you are having a holiday season that is joyful and bright, regardless of what holidays you celebrate (or don’t celebrate). As always, thank you for reading. More to follow.


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