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Honor thy tradition

Written by: Josh December 02 2011 Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea of traditions, particularly in the familial sense. There’s something inherently reassuring about Thanksgiving at Aunt Caroline’s or the Memorial Day barbecue at Cousin Phil’s. There’s no thinking, no planning, no negotiating. And nowhere you’d rather be. We hosted Thanksgiving this year....

Written by: Josh

Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea of traditions, particularly in the familial sense. There’s something inherently reassuring about Thanksgiving at Aunt Caroline’s or the Memorial Day barbecue at Cousin Phil’s. There’s no thinking, no planning, no negotiating. And nowhere you’d rather be.

We hosted Thanksgiving this year. It’s our third year doing it, and it’s kind of our thing now, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a lot of work, a lot of shopping and cooking and prepping and planning. But it’s worth every second.

I come from a small family. Growing up, we always went to my mother’s parents’ house for the Thanksgiving weekend. Always the same long drive, the same cocktail hour, the same Detroit Lions losing, the same post-dinner game of Uno. Always the same, always hated to go home.

Then we grew up, and college and work and distances got in the way. After my grandparents died, we spent a couple years in Thanksgiving purgatory. I think it wasn’t until then that I truly realized and appreciated that tradition that had been planted and nurtured for so many years.

I want these kinds of traditions for Bub. I want him to have that feeling of anticipated expectation, of familiar comfort. But I found myself wondering how one creates traditions, other than just by doing something and then repeating again and again?

Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. But if there’s something missing, a black hole in your tradition universe, try filling that void.

First, you must choose your holiday, preferably one not proudly managed by another family member. Thanksgiving (aside from its historically dubious genesis) seemed like a natural, non-denominational fit for us. It is what it’s always been about for me—family. Only now it has extended to friends and family, and the more the merrier.

Once you’ve chosen your arena, try a test run. We did this two years ago, kind of a shruggy-shruggy ‘Well, I guess we could host’ kind of thing. Keep it casual and all mishaps are forgiven for lack of experience. See how it goes.
If you like it and want to keep it, you’re already in there. Because next year, people will probably ask if you’re hosting, to which you can sheepishly reply, “Well, we did it last year, so…” And just like that, your tradition has momentum.

What I’ve learned is this—traditions are a collection of sub-traditions that are structured, but must remain malleable. There must be room for growth, change and adaptation. Last year I smoked a turkey, this year we actually had no pumpkin pie. It’s trial and error, and it will take quite a while to reach my grandparents’ efficiency. But it’s all just details that shouldn’t detract from the most important thing. You’re surrounded by loved ones, and that’s always a tradition worth repeating.