Label Me Alive

The boys in our family started their own tradition last year, inspired by the Hawaiian tradition of “Kalua Pig,” where a whole pig is cooked underground in banana leaves. The boys decided they could do the same thing with a turkey in grandma and grandpa’s big backyard. Throwing all cooking caution to the wind, they dug a hole, started a fire, and basted their turkey with brown sugar and butter.

We called it the “backup turkey” because who knew what would happen. The half-done turkey that resulted was no match for the amount of fun they had doing it. We finished it in the oven and some brave souls even tasted it.

This year they’ve decided to improve on last year and are going to start the fire earlier. There’s no plans to cook a “normal” turkey of course cause that would be so boring! Butter and brown sugar are still on the list, although I’ve begged them to at least throw a lemon and garlic inside! The word has spread through the family and instead of just the grown-up boys taking part, this year all the little kids want to join in on the fun and games.

This got me thinking about tradition.

I’m a big fan of family. I’m a big fan of tradition.

I’m not a big fan of holidays, weddings, funerals, or any societal structure that tells you to put your life in a box and slap a label on it. The superficiality of them outweighs the meaningfulness (for me).

That being said, tradition and ritual are beautiful and rich with meaning. They don’t need to be fancy or extravagant or exotic. They can be very simple.

Occasionally within the aforementioned holidays, weddings, funerals, etc… there can be found a hint of tradition, of ritual, of meaning. I’ve had this conversation with differing minds, and I totally appreciate that many people find more meaning and substance in some of these events than I do.

It seems to me that sometimes we wait for tradition to “happen” to us or copy other people’s. I think within each of us we have the creativity and inspiration to create our own traditions. Whether they be on a family level or on a personal level, we can infuse life and meaning into our activities, celebrations, and connections.

We don’t need to wait to be grateful, to call our fathers, our mothers, or to give a gift to a loved one.

I find tradition to have grounding qualities similar to ritual. They both seem to me like water that crashes against rocks year after year after year. They wear down our hard or superficial exteriors and work their way into our hearts in a way only time can do. They do not break us open forcefully. Instead, the gradual consistency and authenticity that we bring to them reveals our deeper layers of heart and soul.

And I’m a big fan of heart and soul.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on tradition, ritual, or boxes with labels. Feel free to disagree. It’ll make the conversation more interesting!

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