Traditions aren’t a big deal in my family. And I suppose there are times when I, being one of the more sentimental members, have struggled with that.
“Struggled” is actually too strong of a word…I just can’t think of a better one. It wouldn’t be right to say “disappointed” or “had difficulty”. Perhaps it’s best to say that I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to have the kinds of long-running family traditions that some of my friends have.
At the same time, there’s a freedom to not having traditions, and not being bound to what happened before. My mother’s side of the family typically gets together on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Boxing Day, but the people in attendance change from year to year (though some are constant). No one feels that they have to be there, and that’s a good thing when people are pulled more and more in opposite directions…particularly as my siblings and cousins have grown older.
And in a way, that almost makes it better, since people show up because they want to…not because they feel that they have to.
I think that’s what made it so hard for me to be in Kitchener-Waterloo, constantly missing out on Thanksgiving and Easter get-togethers. It’s not that I felt a need to be there…I was just very aware of the fact that I couldn’t be there. So, it was nice to finally be here for Thanksgiving last October, and Easter this past weekend.
Of course, traditions only require one person to think of them as such (and to uphold them). I used to say that my Thanksgiving tradition was to watch NFL football and eat fried chicken, and that’s what I’d typically do. It started out when I was in university and everyone else would go home for the holidays. Even though people would always invite me to go with them, I never wanted to intrude. Also, I enjoyed the solitude of being on my own for a few days, which was harder to come by in a student residence.
It didn’t matter to me if other people were around or not (one former roommate actually asked if it was okay for him to join me), and I didn’t do it every year. But I liked the idea that I could call it my own, personal tradition.
I’ve also started traditions in other groups, such as the FASS Theatre Company. The best example would be FASS’s “pit band potluck”, which was started in 1999, the first year that I served as music director. As with many of the best traditions, it wasn’t something that we planned. When we moved into the theatre during the tech weekend, the band was given access to a green room for storing our instruments, in which there was a microwave and a refrigerator. That quickly went from “we’re allowed to have food in here” to “we’re having a potluck”. And thus a tradition was born.
I don’t know if the tradition has continued. The last of those 1999 band members left FASS a few years ago, and the band has recently had so many members that it may be too difficult to pull off. And that’s okay…I’d generally favour practicality over tradition. More importantly, I favour the current people doing what they want to do, rather than simply holding to what others did before.
That’s the thing about traditions. In most cases they eventually end, and it’s often disappointing when you’re right in the midst of the change. But in reality, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s probably bad if someone breaks a tradition purely out of spite; however, if the tradition no longer makes sense, then perhaps it’s time to move on and make room for something different.
Maybe a new tradition.
And maybe not.