Tradition…What’s It For?

I take a moment this holiday season to write you a post out of the ordinary from my usual style. I hope you’ll enjoy. Have a very Merry Christmas! – Meghan

This Christmas I’m wondering “when did we all grow up?”

This afternoon I went sledding with my almost 3 year-old nephew at the same hill I slid down as a child. I came to the base of the hill that I used to think was the most massive hill in the world. Today that hill – only 20 feet high – was suddenly towering again. My nephew was tentative at first, but one slide down in his wooden toboggan and the kid was hooked.


Getting ready to head down the hill with my nephew.

I’m facing a bit of a mountain myself these days. I’m getting married in 4 days and for some reason I feel like I’m climbing a new peak. Instead this time I’m not coming back down the same way I went up. As excited as I am, whenever someone says ‘congratulations’ to me these days I tend to think to myself, “for what?” It’s not to be rude or to discount the joy this occasion brings to my life, but I simply find myself wondering what it is exactly that I’ve accomplished. I’ve found a man I love and adore. I’ve nurtured the relationship with him for the past 5 years. But, in many ways the path of our lives just converged at the right time. Everything happened as it was supposed to, even when I didn’t understand it. I’ve worked hard, I’ve struggled, I’ve laughed lots, I’ve questioned, I’ve been cared for and I’ve melted many times with love, but so much of it was beyond my control. I just have the Great Provider to thank for the gift of this man.

Marriage was something I looked up to as a child. In many ways it was presented as something to be accomplished. For many (perhaps too many) people, marriage is the ultimate goal before the next ultimate goal comes along. Conversely it is the ultimate let-down when it doesn’t work out. By having a long-term dating relationship I was able to think a lot about what marriage means beyond the way I perceived it growing up. A three week solo trip in Costa Rica back in 2009 gave me plenty of time to reflect on what it meant to love another person, and be loved, in that way. I dissected the subject so much that I actually became disenchanted by the whole idea. The thought of walking down an aisle in a white dress in front of 150 people nearly put me into epileptic shock.

I questioned what the point of marriage was when so many people were getting divorces. According to this article, 30 percent of Canadian born in 1984 (that’s the year of my birth), witnessed the end of their parents’ marriage or cohabitation by age 15. That means that by the time I was sitting in my classroom in grade 10, almost a third of my classmates had been through that horribly dividing event. I do not take it lightly, then, that my parents are a solidly lasting pair.

It’s not that I feel my relationship is doomed to a horrible outcome – at all – but over the years, I have begun to question the hype of the multi-billion dollar wedding industry. Like many things in our culture, marriage is just one more thing, like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas, that somehow has all the joys of the occasion sucked out of it by Consumerism. I was determined to keep it as far away from this as possible.

After reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s attempt to tackle the topic in Committed, I started to gain an understanding of this important tradition gone wild. There was a way to celebrate it for what it truly is the way we can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas amidst the Best Buy commercials and Boxing Day deals.

There used to be an angel with big lips, too. My mom made these when she was just a bit younger than me now. They have been the butt of many family jokes over the years, but hey, it’s tradition.

Later this afternoon I watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, an all-time family favourite, with my family and my two young nephews. Though we fast-forwarded through the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, ie. the grim reaper who is far too scary for the little ones, it still made me think about traditions. During my sobering study of what it means to get married, I often got stuck on this concept of traditions. Some scared me as much as the ghost we fast-forwarded through, but mostly I have learned how much I love traditions. And this is what weddings are all about.

Traditions help us hold on to the past, but instead of dwelling in it we get to re-live it. I turn on that movie and nibble on some of my mom’s homemade squares and feel like a kid again. Now I share those same traditions with the next generation and, while the speed at which time moves forward almost knocks me off my feet, I cherish them above all else.

Today I spun with my nephew down that little hill and held him tight through the stuffing of his snow suit. I found myself saying ‘again! again!’ the way he did upon reaching the bottom of the hill.

And here’s where I land with traditions. Don’t let them die. Walk down the aisle, however that looks, and surround yourself with family. Love others and let yourself be loved. Again and again.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010

NB – On December 28th, I won’t be walking down an aisle, but I’ll be celebrating at a beautiful restaurant in Old Quebec City surrounded by 20 of my friends and family. It’s okay to put your own spin on traditions.

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