Tradition is both a good thing and a bad.
In a world, and a life, in which so much is out of our control, holiday traditions offer a secure, steady foundation of things that never change. Our employment situation may be precarious — or nonexistent — our finances shaky, our health compromised and going downhill, but during the holiday season, we can look forward to a lack of surprises:
Aunt Josephine and Aunt Eleanor will both bring mashed potatoes to the Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone will be obligated to take the same amount of each, even though Aunt Eleanor’s potatoes are far, far better. Aunt Josephine’s, of course, are healthier, lacking cream and butter in place of potato water and mashed garlic, but you can’t possibly explain to Aunt Josephine why most people prefer Eleanor’s mashed potatoes. Throughout the years, even the youngest child has instinctively known that it’s not wise to even try.
Life Never Stays the Same
And then, one day, Aunt Josephine isn’t able to make it to the holiday dinner. It could be a small reason, like a minor schedule glitch, or it could be a big reason, like illness or death. But a subtle change has been introduced into what we thought was a permanently unalterable, fixed situation. No matter what happened throughout the year, we always knew that we could depend upon the Thanksgiving potato wars.
That year, Aunt Eleanor makes the potatoes. Unexpectedly, however, a nephew, Edmundo, steps in with a sweet potato casserole that he has long wished to contribute, but never felt that there was room to do so. It is an instant hit with half the family. The wars continue on, subtly altered.
And so it is with tradition: it is fixed, yet flexible, a connection to the past that transcends into the future. While the big things continue to happen — death, birth, a new job, the loss of an old job, a new house, relocation to a different city, a marriage, a divorce — the little things that make up holiday traditions keep us going. Aunt Josephine and Aunt Eleanor will not be with us forever, but their memories live on in the upcoming generation that blends the old with the new, seeking out and celebrating the rich gifts of life.
Holidays Are Happy, yet Sad
Holidays are a happy time tinged with sadness, because once you get old enough, you have memories of holidays that used to be — when you were a child, when your children were little, when things were noisy and chaotic and people who meant so much to you were there, draining potatoes and slicing turkey and pouring wine and surreptitiously snatching fudge. Even if your holidays are noisy and chaotic this year, somebody is missing, because all the people we love and depend upon aren’t in the same room, or even living, at the same time.
Such is life, and holidays are a condensation of this experience, squeezed into a few-week period in which we are aware of the many good things we have, as well as the many good things, and people, that we have lost. There is a reason why holidays are difficult for many people.
Someday, There Will Be No More Sadness
Someday, however, there will be no more sadness, and the happiness will erupt forth without interruption or check:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them, They will be his people, and God himself will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'” (Revelation 21:3-4)
This is our hope, our gift, and our treasure, my friends, and it is the reason we celebrate this season. Whether our holidays are rambunctious and tumultuous, or quieter than we would like, we have hope in a God who loves His children, and invites us all to an eternal celebration with Him, and one another.
Take time, this holiday season, to think about the future to come, and rest in the arms of the One who prepares it.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. If you like what you read, please consider subscribing to me, at the top right of the menu bar.
Posts similar to this one are