There we are, the family in our mini-van traveling down 27th street on a cold, grey, drizzly late November afternoon. We’re on our annual Christmas tree hunt, when my son says from the back, “We need to go to Arby’s. It’s our tradition”. What followed was a discussion of the history of our Christmas Arby’s tradition. I made the remark that I thought we went to Arby’s on Christmas Eve, but then I was reminded that we can’t do that anymore with both my husband and I serving congregations. Then in chimes the toddler with his request to go to “Chocolate Bell” (an obviously a combination of Taco Bell and chocolate) which sounded good to me. Brad then remembers that yes, we did go to Arby’s after our last Christmas Tree hunt. He remembered looking out the window at the restaurant watching to make sure that the tree stayed safely sprawled over the roof of the van. That got me thinking and chiming in with my two-cents again, “I actually don’t like Arby’s very much”. Whereupon my older son agrees with me, and Brad makes the suggestion, “How about pizza?”
Having agreed upon Little Ceasar’s $5 pizza, we have now probably created a new tradition.
A commercial I caught the other day stated something like, “traditions aren’t for keeping; traditions are for keeping us together.” I wished I a pastor, instead of some marketer, would have said that, would have come up with that one. It is so true. That little discussion in our van put it all into perspective. Tradition is a way of remembering and connecting to history. It pulls our stories together around a repeated event. However, traditions can also be mis-remembered. Another potential pitfall is traditions existing purely for their own benefit. Then they can become confining and constricting. Imagine if we would have felt compelled to stick with Arby’s. We might have lamented about just how awful it was that we couldn’t celebrate Arby’s on Christmas Eve anymore. We could have continued to go and eat at a restaurant that really didn’t satisfy several members of our family. Most importantly, we certainly wouldn’t have ended the evening singing, “O pizza tree, O pizza tree, how lovely are your sausages, O pizza tree, O pizza tree . . .