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…on tradition (or: Merry Christmas!)

Most people have an aversion to change that is strong, bordering on irrational. I remember several years ago my employer changed the width of the border on the left hand of one of our main web pages. I was flabbergasted by the vitriolic hate (e)mail we got from users. I can’t claim to be particularly good at coping with change myself. For example, Andrew and I have acknowledged that our flat is far too small for us for well over a year now, but we’re still there. I just can’t be bother moving twice–once into a bigger rental property, and again into another place when we find a flat to buy.

While I’ve been at home for the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between tradition and change. My family and I are, I suspect, more fond of traditions than most. Some of them are totally mundane. At Georgetown my sister & I used to have the same exchange every time we passed a clothing donation bin on Prospect Street:

Me: “I’ll give you a dollar if you climb into that.”
Sister: “But I’d be trapped in there.”
Me: “But you’d have a dollar.”

Andrew & I have similar traditions. Whenever we pass a particular Domino’s Pizza, one of us suggests “We should get pizza some time.” We’ll never actually get pizza from there, but we say it anyway. In my family, lots of the little traditions help demarcate time. Easter dinner? That’s at Aunt Toni’s house. Thanksgiving? Marguerite’s. Mother’s day and Christmas? Ours. On Christmas Eve, we always eat Kraft spiral Mac & Cheese with home made apple sauce before going to mass.

Other family traditions are more substantial. Every summer, for example, my mother’s family rented the same cabin on Camano Island. They started in 1952, and when the family that owned the cabin decided to stop renting it out in 2010, we bought a bigger house on the same beach. And for 35 years, my mother’s family has gathered every 23rd of December at the chapel in Jesuit House at Gonzaga University for a mass to celebrate our ancestors and our family. As an aside, the chapel itself has a special place in our family. It has been the setting for weddings (including that of my parents), funerals (such as my grandmother’s wake), and countless baptisms.

All of which is to say that we’ll use just about anything as an excuse to create a tradition. I never went through a traditional rebellious phase–I was more subversive than rebellious, I guess–so my adolescence was never marked by any sort of rejection of family traditions. In fact, having grown up mostly with other children of large Catholic families, I’m not sure I was even aware that my family was more “traditional” than most until I was at Georgetown (if not Oxford).

So: Merry Christmas!

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