This Thanksgiving has gone off without hardly a hitch. It’s been a thing of beauty – all the traditions we follow each year have just been better this year than last: Thanksgiving dinner, Black Friday pancake breakfast, the gift exchange, the skeet shoot, the Christmas tree hunt, the Christmas card photos.
After doing these things for years and years now, we’ve managed to keep what works and do it well. And now I’m seeing a new perspective on the value of traditions: they’re a form of rehearsal.
It’s hard to coordinate the efforts of lots of family members, especially when we only meet up a couple of times a year, But tradition gives us the opportunity to work around a shared idea.
In the case of family holiday traditions, as my family does the same things for Thanksgiving year over year, we get better at doing them. We might (just for example) avoid the unnecessary hour of decorating which always wears Dad out, or you skip the extra cooking which isn’t fair to Mom. We might even drop a tradition no one cares much for. In this way the “ideal holiday” can start to evolve – like the one we’ve had this year. I might be surprised by how pleasant things have been, but things have been pleasant because we’ve spent so many years working to get here.
Of course, using tradition doesn’t mean we have to be controlled by it. This year we might have created some new ones, like running a Thanksgiving Day 5K. But to know that we’ll be doing many of the same things next year isn’t boring or restricting – it allows for planning. I’ll get the most out of my time with my extended family next year because of our traditions. We’ll have already practiced.