I just got off the phone with a friend who has been forced into a new life and new way of doing pretty much everything due to a recent divorce. This includes holidays and all the past traditions that her family had shared. Today, she was a little overwhelmed at the loss of all her holiday traditions and how that was affecting and would affect her kids and her.
I personally have never had a lot of holiday “traditions” so I think in some way it has made me wonder if I am really missing out on something or if my kids will be forever warped by the lack of holiday traditions, (outside the weird elf ornament of my daughter that has made its way into our yearly Christmas jokes.) As my friend shared her heart and fear about what a loss of the usual Christmas traditions, it led me to ask some questions about traditions.
As I asked some questions and started to do a little research, I discovered that like so many other words that have huge and deep meanings like love, truth, hope and peace, we have taken the word “tradition” and reduced it to something that can be applied to just about anything we physically “DO”.
Tradition defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:
- a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)
b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
: characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>
From the definition above, it is easy to gather that tradition is more than a physical act. It is an act that reflects a deep connection between beliefs, history, experiences, hopes, thoughts, facts and relationships with ourselves, others and our world. Traditions are acts that actually reflect and communicate the giving and receiving of all we are, where we have been and help with where we are going. They are the things that help people remember who they are, how they feel, what they think and how they relate to one another by something they do together. Traditions would be something that would help keep love, truth, hope and joy alive from the past to celebrate in the present and encourage us for the future.
WOW! Right? Just wow. As I think about my friend and myself, I am blown away again! I am blown away by the things we have tried to use as “traditions” to make up for our lack of real traditions. I am also blown away that we (my friend and I) have been given REAL traditions without even knowing we had them. See, my friend and I have been forced into this place called honesty. We have been forced to see ourselves, our lives, our beliefs and our relationships for what they were and what they are. In this messy place, we discovered truth. Truth that creates, reflects and grows REAL love. (Real love does not exist without truth and truth does not exist without love.) It’s kind of ironic that as we were filled up with love and truth, it overflowed between us and we began to regularly to share everything with one another. In fact, we don’t do this once a year, we do this daily, weekly, monthly.
I tell you this because as I think about “traditions” and the real deep and extraordinary meaning of them, I am struck that our tradition of sharing our truth and our time is called love (it is what we “do”- love is and action of truth) that reflects who we are, how we feel, what we think and believe, and how we relate. It enables us to keep the past alive, celebrate the present and give us hope for the future. This is now our “tradition”, pattern, religious practice, social custom and gift that we give to one another all rolled into one that has now overflowed in the lives of our friends, families and particularly our kids.
Hey friend, I am writing this to you to thank you for sharing your heart this morning that was full of fear. Take heart and be encouraged that the crumby Christmas Eve tradition that you shared with a man who couldn’t tell the truth to save his life (but could share some Chinese food and nice attitude) is no tradition compared to the traditions that you are giving to your kids to live in the moment…AS THEY ARE. The space you have created for them to feel what they want to feel, say what they want to say, think what they want to think, make mistakes, be messy and be who they are is the most beautiful and lavish act of love that you could give them to find rest, love, truth, hope and joy.
Moms, dads, parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors, I invite you to Give-Up traditions that connect little more than our stomachs and this tiny moments of togetherness once or twice a year. Instead, you are invited to give the greatest gift you can possibly give to someone- your time, your talents, your truth and your love. Watch this not only make memories and celebrate the moment but transform your lives, relationships and world… every single day. Hopefully as the holidays come, this love and truth will free us to create extra special times and places that we can celebrate with others the love and truth we already share.