On Tradition

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Yet again, I start the long weekend eating a stuffed turkey and end it feeling like one. I’ll just rely on two of my all-time favorite mottos: “Whatever” and “The diet starts tomorrow.” Though it would be easy to write about Thanksgiving food, I also find that somewhat nauseating. So instead, I’m going to write about tradition.

Tradition is something that we, as humans, admittedly celebrate but underratedly infatuate ourselves with. When I hear the word, I think of family. For the majority of my life, my family has prided itself in tradition, as I’m sure everyone else’s has, too. I always felt like the nature of our traditions was better than everyone else’s. In the most obnoxious way, I’ve always assumed that our traditions were more, well, traditional.

Once upon a time, I wrote a piece for @JewBoyProblem’s blog, Found at Bubbe’s, about the importance of a nicely set table to my family. In it, I spoke of my grandma’s need to use her fine china as often as possible. It shaped me into a dining snob. If I go elsewhere for a holiday/special meal, and we’re eating on plastic… forget about it. This example of FYD-fam tradition, along with dozens of others, gave me a feeling that my family was special. We have other traditions that weren’t as fancy, don’t get me wrong. But, then again, we really love our china.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to take notice of little ways tradition intertwines itself into our lives that aren’t as obvious as those displayed at a Thanksgiving meal. I finally understand that different traditions—like the generations-old one in my family where you must put butter on your nose on your birthday—do not have to be annoying and/or acne inducing. They don’t have to be weird or embarrassing, either. Tradition has become a feeling that we subconsciously cling to.

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about the Greek life scene at different schools. “You know,” she said to me, “it’s for people who like that whole tradition-y atmosphere.” For some reason, that struck me as incredibly interesting. I had never before thought about a sorority or a fraternity as being “tradition-y.” If anything, it seems like more mupload-y. You know, like who can mupload the most amount of photos from the most unique and flattering angles of all the food your big got you? Or who can capture us dancing on eleven different elevated surfaces? To be fair, I thought of Greek life as “campy” because your sorority sisters are the closest to your camp friends you’ll ever get. I went to sleepaway camp for seven summers and basked in its traditions. My camp was all-girls, uniform, and incredibly strict. Because of these traditions, I became a better person. Camp was something my mom had done (we actually went to the same camp) and my grandma had done. My family had camp in its traditions, and my camp was traditional. Therefore, camp = tradition of all sorts.

So if Greek life is campy, and campy is tradition-y, then I guess Greek life is tradition-y. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I suppose I am because traditions evolve. Whether sisterhood blossoms by wearing bathing caps and one-pieces in a freezing lake (like it did for me) or by dedicating yourself to a group of girls for four years of your life, it sticks. This is the magic of tradition.

My only hesitancy to modern tradition—tradition that leaks out of decorated paddles and camp songs—is that it doesn’t seem as special as china set on the dining room table. It also seems to lack the individualism that I usually seek. The hardest part about tradition is deciding when it’s time to change… when it’s time to start having Thursday dinner at a Mexican restaurant rather than an Italian one or when you’ve gotta choose between having your Thanksgiving meal with Mom’s side of the fam or with Dad’s. I think we have to realize that ending a tradition to do your own thing isn’t bad. It’s just, well, different.



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