My son-in-law says that having oyster dressing at Thanksgiving is a tradition. What he is saying is that it was a tradition In his family when he grew up. My daughter disliked oysters immensely but gamely fixes them. Here’s my question – why don’t they start their own version of tradition – without oysters?
Why it’s important to question tradition
If we accept tradition we never look to see if that particular version is appropriate for us, for today. And we should. Another story tells of the woman who cut both ends off of a ham before cooking it. Her husband asked her why she did it and she said, “My mother did.” She got curious and asked her mother why she did it and the answer was the same, “My mother did.” When Grandmother was asked why she cut both ends off the ham she said “because I didn’t have a pan big enough.”
We need to question why we do anything to be certain the reasons are sound and still relevant.
Create your own tradition
I remember the first Christmas my husband and I celebrated by ourselves with our children. We sat around the table in colored sweat shirts and celebrated the way that best suited our family of four young children. If there was something I liked from my parent’s version of Christmas I included it as long as it was in keeping with the needs and desires of my own family.
As I began to spend holidays alone I make up my own celebration – a lot of gratitude on Thanksgiving, forward thinking contemplation around the New Year – all with small ceremonies I make up for myself that I may or may not repeat the next year. Do what you need to do in that moment. Make it real and meaningful. Create your own celebration.
I’m scared of tradition
“We do it because it’s tradition” locks you into non-thinking, non-questioning, non-creative situations. I joined a card-playing group and suggested we might try out different games. The answer was “No, it’s traditional to do it this way.” Who’s tradition? Someone decided to do it that way at some point in time and that person isn’t even involved anymore. I love change. I love curiosity. I love questioning the status quo. I love learning new things. I’ll only do something that’s traditional if it fits my here and now.
Tradition means “habit” or “custom”
Does a barbaric custom need to be continued? Does a self-defeating habit need to be kept up? I’m suggesting we question everything and make certain it is the best we can do at that moment. It’s fine to remember “the old days” but those customs were based on what was available at the time – candles on the tree, Yule logs in the manner. Find your own version and share it with your loved ones. Make your events unique in their traditional creativity.
© 2010 Cara Lumen