There is a common misunderstanding of me as a person, namely that I want to get rid of all traditions. See, traditions are a weird thing for me. Recently we had some team exercises where it came out that I am the one on the team who has the lowest value for “traditions.” This, of course, is most present during Holidays and anything that happens just because “that’s the way we have always done it.” I always think it is important to ask what would happen if we changed something and acknowledge that if everyone hates it, we can just go back to the old way next year.
It’s hard for me to pick out specific traditions growing up. We, of course, celebrated all the classics…Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc., but the traditions associated with them never really mattered that much to me. We would go to various family houses and, of course, there were certain foods I always hoped for—but that’s because everyone likes good food, and as long as the food was good, I would be happy with anything. After all, if people really like Thanksgiving food all that much, why is it that no one ever eats it during the rest of the year?
Now, as I live in a new country and am about to get married, the thought that keeps running around in my head is what traditions I want to bring with me. My favorite memories growing up were when we had a family friend stay with us on Christmas day because he was alone, Christmas dinners with non-blood family in between Christmas Eve services, friends my grandparents would bring to thanksgiving, and playing one-on-one football with my cousin. And, while I do not think I will carry it on, I will never forget doing plays with my sisters and cousins. Most of these were place, time, or people specific and can never be repeated.
With these thoughts, I want to say something that may be controversial: I want to scrap all holiday traditions and start fresh. We need to rethink how we do holidays and stop doing things just because “that’s how they have always been done,” and trying to recreate them every year, because that is impossible.
I know I may sound like the Grinch, but maybe that is okay, because The Whos down in Whoville never really understood what Christmas was all about until the Grinch took it away.
When it comes to “holidays,” what matters is gathering together. So yes, it is good to gather with your family, BUT family can be more then just the people you are related to. It can be the people in your community that you care about, and maybe even strangers too, because even strangers need a place to go.
This is where we can start bringing holiday traditions back from the scrap pile, and rethink what we do for them. If we remember first that it is about the people coming together, we can relax about the fine china, perfect recipes, or dressing up right. It is just about gathering and having a good time. So pop popcorn, order pizza, and if it is how you show love, make fancy food. But never do it out of obligation, do it because you want to show love to the people around you.
Holidays can also be about worship and celebration, but we can do this more than once or twice a year. I propose that we have more holidays, more times to come together to celebrate, worship, and remember. We can gather for specific purposes that can allow us to pay closer attention to those things. As Christians in America, we celebrate the 4th of July, but we don’t celebrate when the Gutenberg Bible was first produced, the Reformation (both as a celebration, and trying to reconnect with our Catholic brothers and sisters), or any of the other important dates in Christian History.
This is what Christmas and holidays are like for me in a foreign place, where all the trappings of traditions have been stripped away. I am realizing that holidays are really just gathering with the people I love—they just happen to involve doing puzzles, watching dumb TV shows, and maybe even eating sushi.
For the record, I do love Christmas music and sometimes I even enjoy it the Summer, Spring, and Fall.
– By Daniel Buck, OMS Hungary Team Member