Since I am a Change Leader, many of you might think that traditions aren’t high on my list. You would be completely wrong. Traditions are like the rocks that slow down the white water of change, giving us something to hold onto when the current gets to be too much.
The holidays provide us with this rock (or perhaps with a severe headache, depending upon your family). In our family, Thanksgiving means standing in the kitchen, conversing, while my mom and sister make rolls. They pay me not to cook by providing homemade chocolate chip cookies and a captive audience upon which I can cast my stories. We eat the same food every year: Butterball® Turkey, whipped potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green beans, Pepperidge Farm® dressing, homemade rolls, gravy, Pies for dessert.
One of the worst Thanksgivings I ever had was in college because I went home with a friend whose family ate things like squash casserole and rice with their meal. They also replaced football with a television evangelist. I had to accept another family’s tradition and it agitated my soul.
According to Wikipedia, tradition is:
Generally, traditions give us some constant beliefs or customs that one generation found important enough to pass down to another. Much like a Jungian truth, tradition is something that provides us with a behavioral framework around which we can build. Prisoners of war have talked about how their family’s tradition of reading the Lord’s Prayer or other Bible verses gave them something to repeat and cherish those years they were being persecuted. Stories are passed along through families to keep the spirit of past members alive and let younger members know the human strengths and frailities from which they have come.
I realize that some things that are called tradition aren’t really tradition at all; Uncle Bob getting drunk every Christmas might be inevitable, but it’s not a tradition. It’s just unfortunate. Having the family argument about the NRA falls under the same rule. Traditions aren’t just the repetition of something, they are the messages that our souls know must be passed on.
Tradition gives us something to teach our children that they will teach their children. Moments of tradition are uniquely ours, and we rest in them as we do the arms of the parent that loves us. Traditions tell us that there are certain eternal parts of us that declare “this matters.”
I am glad we have traditions, and I am going to enjoy every marshmallow that I pick off the top of the sweet potatoes tomorrow (a habit that annoys my family and does not fall under the definition of a tradition). I hope you take a break from the whitewater this holiday season and rest in the arms of your family’s tradition.