Monday, October 13, 2008

And How Do We Keep Our Balance? Tradition!

One of my favorite traditions as a child was Saturday breakfasts. Every weekend without fail, my dad cooked massive amounts of pancakes, waffles, or French Toast (we were never quite sure which one he was going to make, which added to the excitement.) Then my brother and I would sit at our kitchen counter, smother my dad's creations in syrup and peanut butter and watch "Gummi Bears." I'm pretty sure that this tradition lasted until I entered college (except, perhaps for the watching "Gummi Bears" part) and my dad's pancakes remain the best I've ever tasted.

I used to love traditions. I loved how an Easter basket brimming with See's candy and a new outfit would mysteriously appear outside my bedroom door every Easter morning. I loved that each night before I went to sleep, my dad would place his hand on my head and pray that the Lord would bless me and keep me. I loved how we always stopped to eat at the exact same McDonald's with the amazing play area on our trips to Disneyland. I loved dying hard boiled eggs. I loved that my mom's side of the family always gathered on Christmas Eve and put on a talent show.

As a twentysomething, my feelings about traditions have shifted. Some traditions that used to add joy and consistency to my life now feel obligatory and stale. Just as I used to delight in traditions, now I rather delight in breaking them. For instance, I adored having a Christmas tree in our house as a child and loved decorating my very own tree in my first apartment. But over time, the hassle of lugging a tree up three flights of stairs, cleaning the dirt and needles off the carpet, watering the tree each day, and disposing of the tree overshadowed the joy of having a decorated tree in my home. So a few years ago, I stopped buying Christmas trees. And you know what? It's been wonderfully freeing. Last year, my family decided to refrain from buying each other Christmas gifts after 27 years of fabulous Christmas mornings. And it was delightful.

Traditions that used to carry so much weight now seem rather unimportant to me. If I have the opportunity to host a Thanksgiving dinner, I definitely want to serve steak instead of turkey. If I get engaged, I don't particularly want to register for gifts. I like the idea of staying in and going to sleep at 11:30 p.m. on New Years' Eve.

As much as my little unsentimental heart currently enjoys breaking traditions, I do see great merit in observing them. They add consistency and joy to life - especially for kids. They often encourage us to think of others. They remind us of our heritage. They reinforce deep truths (communion and baptism, for example.) And I'm sure I'll eventually buy a Christmas tree. And maybe even cook a turkey dinner.

So here are my three questions for you: 1. Why are traditions important? 2. What traditions add meaning, joy, and depth to your life? 3. What traditions have you currently chosen not to observe because they lack personal meaning? I'd appreciate your thoughts!

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