The New Year holiday period has just ended, typically signaling a time for a fresh outlook on life; making minor tweaks and/or major adjustments to our daily rituals. In the 2 1/2 years I’ve been composing The 50 Plus Male blog, I’ve always skipped to fresh subject matter with each posting. So, to slightly “shake the tree,” and do something a bit different, this month’s dialogue will tie-in with our most recent article, “Sense and Sensibilities.”
While that article delved into my harsh feelings toward the blatant commercialization of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, you also got a glimpse into how much I truly treasure the meaning behind the day. A number of years ago, I noticed that my family had fallen into a pattern whereby a given holiday was annually hosted by the same person. I made a pronouncement that we had unwittingly started a “tradition,” with this unintended scheduling, so why not make it permanent? We have done so and my wife and I have always served as Thanksgiving hosts in the ensuing years. Quite frankly, a pair of pliers on steroids couldn’t pry away celebrating this holiday at our home, as my reverence for Thanksgiving far exceeds that of any other holiday.
In my younger days, I didn’t feel this way; one holiday morphed into the next without giving any special thought to its underlying purpose. As I’ve aged, however, my perceptions have naturally changed (for the better), and without “cutting things too thin” with my vernacular, the difference between doing something out of habit, versus the desire to do so due to tradition has illuminated. I think I’ve figured out why this has happened with me: the aging process is continually increasing my respect for personal emotions…
Let me provide two examples for you. In December 2010, I told Ed, my best friend of over 40 years, that my wife and I would not be joining “the gang” for our traditional (there’s that word again) New Year’s Eve dinner at a local French restaurant, an establishment with exceptional fare cooked by a world-renowned chef many of us have befriended. The reason was simple; we just didn’t want to spend the money, given how tight our finances were at the time. The next day, we had an unannounced visit from Ed and it didn’t take “an Einstein” to determine his reasoning. He literally pleaded with us to change our minds; the tradition of our crowd celebrating the New Year together was unbroken for all these many years; and his eyes literally began to fill-up with tears when he underscored how much this meant to him. If ever the delineation between “habit” versus “tradition” needed clarifying, it had just occurred. Needless to say, my wife and I immediately relented and once again joined our friends for our yearly celebration.
The second example just happened two weeks ago on Christmas Day. My wife and I have grown to appreciate the simple things when it comes to gifts from one another. Over the many years of our marriage, habit has evolved into tradition when I buy her stocking-stuffer gifts. They are always either a Christmas tree ornament and/or a holiday ornament for our fireplace hearth. Sound too mundane for you? Look into my wife’s eyes as she opens these gifts; I’m choking-up now with visions of her appreciative expression and gratitude…this seemingly innocuous tradition holds that much meaning for both of us.
Don’t sit there thinking I’m getting soft in my old age; as someone with a somewhat too-steely inner resolve, it’s a comfort knowing traditions are gradually melting away my edges.