Saturday, November 28, 2020

Tradition & Experience

According to, "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." is their initial definition of tradition.

The later weeks of November through December seems to carry more tradition than any other time period in the year. With the tradition comes an extraordinary amount of emphasis placed upon everything from food, to movies/television, decorating, shopping, emotional euphoria, and the need to perpetuate the rituals.

(Lower center between parents) 
As long as I can remember my mother was a Registered Nurse. Her usual shift was overnight. In this way she could have some daytime and evenings with the family. However, she always seemed to work holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. "Other people need to have time with their families." was her answer to why she was working. The day itself lessened in significance as the weekends before or after became our time to gather. Thanksgiving was spent with my maternal grandparents. These grandparents were in the same room long enough to eat. Otherwise, they were not together. And the stuffing was always pulled from the cavity of the turkey. Plump, wet raisins dotted the glistening dressing. Nothing could be worse for someone who only ate raisins when they were leathery dry and either in cookies or wheat cereal.

Marriage brought Thanksgiving at the in-laws complete with a children's table. I always found the children's table more fun than the adult table. And it was in a separate room. My mother-in-law was so busty passing and refilling platters and bowls that her food had to be cold by the time she sat down to eat.

My dad flanked by my family

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as a pastor caused my mother's words to reverberate in my brain. It seemed that working those days became tradition. My family always came after the time honored Candlelight Worship needs of the congregation(s). It seems strange now (but not at the time) to allow the tradition of the congregation(s) to set the tradition for our family. Add to all of this the unwritten rule of being at the in-laws ASAP following services and you can picture a tradition of chaotic movement. 

With both daughters grown but Christmas Eve & Day still being part of vocational life, emphasis was been placed on Thanksgiving. In the past decade Thanksgiving has been spent in Italy, Las Vegas, Florida, Arizona, serving meals to families in a hospital, experiencing "zoo lights", eating at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and visiting my father. So, I ask myself while looking at this from many angles, "Is there a tradition to be found?"


I recently finished the book, "The Pursuit of Endurance" by Jennifer Pharr Davis (2018). She wrote, "Feeling stuck is no excuse for staying where you are." As I look back, as well as look around the spectrum of tradition is everywhere. A certain day, a certain menu, the regularity of knowing what come next, and the deep meaning of generational gatherings clings tightly for many. Equally I see lasagna and whiskey, queso and tacos for daily grazing, and this year, faces seen on video connections. I listen to the bemoaning of cultural norms, as well as the loss of the Black Friday frenzy. 

Southwestern treat

This year was spent quietly at home. With the generosity of another family the normative foods of Thanksgiving were delivered with "no contact." COVID quarantining provided the structural reality. No trips. No family. No gathering. Were we stuck? What does this mean during this year's emphasis upon holiday gatherings? Pandemic be damned! What about future gatherings? Each day, every experience is a part of life. The value is not in completing a huge puzzle. I believe it is in taking the piece provided and finding its beauty. Staying where I am is an option if I choose to close my eyes and wish for something different. However, I choose to embrace each day for what it provides while attempting not to judge it. I cannot stay where I am because each day provides new pathways on the journey of life. Earlier I wrote, "You can picture a tradition of chaotic movement." It is only chaotic if you attempt to impose your order on it. I choose to practice life and gratitude as my tradition even when it appears nontraditional. 

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