Tim is already looking toward Christmas, though it's not even quite Thanksgiving time. He has been asking for summer sausage (why it's named summer sausage, I don't know--I only see it in the winter...maybe it's made in the southern hemisphere or something), and he says that since Dad always gets it for his stocking, it's a tradition. A tradition. Now there's a lot of weight put upon one unholy unsuspecting summer sausage.
The word "tradition" always sparks a guilt of sorts in me, a guilt that I never instituted absolute traditions for all of our holidays--things a bit more meaningful than summer sausage. Though there are neat things we have done on many of the holidays, and some more than once, such that I might call them a habit--still, I might not call them traditions, because if we didn't do them, I would hope that the holiday would come through quite intact.
That word "tradition" bears such a lot of weight, responsibility, and assumption. Weight that the holiday's enjoyment rests on the expected means of observing it. Responsibility that once a tradition is established, we'd better not mess up and leave it out. Assumption that we will indeed be able to observe every holiday with every established tradition and not disappoint the family if we don't. I think of our roller-coaster finances, our roller-coaster economy, and our...not roller coaster...but still unpredictable health, especially as we get older. Besides my tendency toward disorganization, forgetfulness, and changing personal preferences, where one year I thought something was great and this year, it's passe. Our kids' ages change, so we drop some holiday details and adopt others with that influence.
There are, unavoidably, things we do that are tradition but I overlook them because they are so assumed; they didn't spring out of my creativity and originality; they sprang out of the culture that has us by the throat. A Christmas tree for example. I can't really explain why we do that crazy thing, but we do it. No matter what, we've always had a tree. It doesn't always have to be a real tree, it doesn't have to be fake, but there has to be a fairly big green triangle in the front room. Last year's was our shortest ever, and we put it on a little table for the needed height--because we got it for $10. Why pay $20 more for five more feet of green triangle? No one cared, and it was fine.
There is freedom in inconsistency. If we do something one year, and not the next, we can pick and choose, and the children, though not "steeped in tradition" which seems such a noble thing, will accept it and still enjoy the holiday. The unnegotiable core matter is that at Thanksgiving, we focus on thankfulness to God; at Christmas, we focus on the remembrance of God's gift of Christ's birth to the best of our ability. After all, the holidays are to be observed for their core meaning, and not for the sake of the summer sausage. Praise God, Hallelujah!