Family > Frenzy
If you’re like most folks this holiday season, you will be spending significant time with your family very soon – maybe you are with them today getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with a long weekend. Whether it’s hopping on a plane to visit your parents, taking a few days off of work to enjoy a little down time with your spouse and kids, or loading up the Suburban to eat Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s, the holidays are full of opportunities to reconnect and celebrate with the people that mean the most to us. Unfortunately, they also provide plenty of reasons to be anxious – the gifts you haven’t wrapped, the urge to spend more money than you have, or the chance you may run into that toxic relative (think Cousin Eddie from the National Lampoon Vacation movies). In a season that has so much potential to bring out both the best and worst in us, how can we redeem the time for the most good? The solution I’d like to suggest may surprise you.
What’s your immediate response when you hear the word tradition? For many of you it’s mostly positive: warm memories come to mind as you ponder the special dessert you enjoy every Christmas Eve, or the movie you’ve watched every day after Thanksgiving for the last 15 years. For others, the prospect of doing the same thing over and over again (even a good thing) seems so stale and rehearsed that it sends chills down your spine. Take this negative connotation, mix it with the frenetic pace and highly mobile nature of our society, and you end up with many families losing any sense of tradition – and sadly, any cherished traditions of their own. Sometimes in Christian cultures this negative perception even gets spiritualized, and those who always live spontaneously are deemed as being more Godly than those who are ‘stuck in the past’. However, for God’s glory and our good, we must rediscover a biblical affirmation of faithful traditions.
Simply put, traditions are those rituals you do at the same time and the same way. However, they’re different than a standard routine or habit because they are done for a specific purpose, and thus require extra thought and intentionality. During ‘normal’ days, God-treasuring traditions can be ordinary things such as telling stories or attending church. During the holidays, our traditions can serve as a creative way we reflect Christ to those we love the most.
Some particular benefits to traditions include:
- Traditions provide a source of identity. The traditions we choose tell stories about who we are as a family. In the Old Testament, the Israelites would share the Passover meal together every year to remind each other that their identity was rooted in worshiping the One True God, the One who had delivered them once from oppression and would do it again someday. In my family, before we open Christmas presents, we read the account of Jesus’s birth in Luke 2 to remind us that our identity is in Christ, the incarnation of God for our deliverance.
- Traditions slow us down. Preparing that special recipe takes extra time and care. Reading a story together, particularly with younger children, is bound to be accompanied with some unexpected interruptions. When it comes to traditions, speed and efficiency are not the end game (remember: purpose, thought, intentionality). For instance, every Thanksgiving morning, Team Kirkland reads a story about some turkeys that escape a barnyard. Then we trace our hands on a posterboard and make them into turkeys with whatever we happen to have in the craft closet or can find in the yard (sticks and leaves work just fine). Admittedly, that time does not always go the fastest for me and my turkey is consistently the ugliest, but over the years I have learned to enjoy watching Trisha and the kids have fun expressing themselves creatively. And believe it or not, I’ve actually begun to enjoy making my turkey, which leads me to my last point…
- Traditions are fun. In the lineage of Kirkland men, almost nothing is more enjoyable than football. Since the 1930s (aside from a break during WWII), the weekend before Christmas, the men on my dad’s side of the family have attended the NC-SC Shrine Bowl, an all-star game for the best high school football players in the two states. Though he’s been passed away for some time now, I can still hear my Granddad, an ardent Gamecock fan, telling me after one of the players fumbled the ball, “Clemson can have that one right there. We don’t want him!” Last year was my first time taking my son to the game, and this year he looks forward to spending time again with his granddad, uncles, and cousins. That makes me happy. God in His goodness has given us lots of gifts like football, and the way we best honor the Gift-Giver is through enjoying them, having fun, and being grateful.
I hope this blog is just a launching point for you in learning more about how God wants to use traditions in your family. As you take a next step in this direction, consider the following questions to spur your thoughts:
What do I value more than anything?
How do I express these things to the people who are most important to me?
What type of family are we (i.e. artistic, handy, adventurous, athletic, etc), and what are some things we can do together to help us see that particular aspect of God?
This year, in place of the frenzy that often accompanies the holidays, perhaps take some time to intentionally slow down – set a new pace and start a new tradition.
As I sat down to research and write this post, I found these resources helpful and thought that I might share them with you.
The Art of Manliness: The Importance of Family Traditions
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