Whether it’s a big thanksgiving feast at the same house every year, or the first song sung on a long road trip, for most kids traditions large and small, are a big part of our lives. Before we even understand the concept of familiarity, we learn what it’s like to count on something, or someone, year in and year out. But I for one have never thought much about those traditions or where and when they started; was it something that was planned, or simply a happy accident that our parents or grandparents chose to repeat?
So for the last few days, I have turned my attention to these comforting, and sometimes confounding things called Traditions. For this week anyway, you can call me Tevye. (If you are unfamiliar with the reference, I recommend renting Fiddler on the Roof).
I realize for the past four years I have actively, though unknowingly, been creating my own family tradition. I have spent every President’s Day Weekend since freshman year with my aunt and uncle in Moss Beach, CA: Population 400. It’s a small beach town on the coast outside of San Francisco where the pizza place is also an Indian restaurant that serves fish and chips.
Sometimes I brought a friend, and sometimes I went alone. Some years it’s rained, some it’s been sunny and beautiful. But regardless of the external circumstance, it’s been wonderful to have something annual to count on.
I realize my trips to Moss Beach gave me those same feelings of anticipation and security, as the traditions I grew up with. I guess I just never considered that traditions could be something I could generate. So, last weekend when my aunt asked me if I was going to continue our tradition and come back next year, even though I would no longer be living in Davis, I didn’t hesitate; I said “absolutely!” and made a mental note for next year’s calendar.
I love traditions, of any kind. Whether I start them, join in while they’re ongoing, or even when I just watch someone else’s traditions from the outside. I take comfort in the familiarity and find joy in having things to look forward to. I also happen to think it’s fun to watch for how each tradition morphs a little with the passage of time.
After this grand revelation about starting my own traditions, I started to think about all the little traditions I’ve created, some inadvertently and others because I just enjoyed doing something and decided to continue. We all do it, whether we’re cognizant of it at the time or not, and I think there’s something unexplainably lovely about tradition.
Every Wednesday night since the beginning of the quarter, my little little sis Sarina and I watch Lost. I pick her up from campus, we pretend to do homework for an hour or two, and then we flip on the tv set and proceed to watch an hour filled with mystery and insanity, usually emerging with the same confused looks as the week before.
This weekly goings-on didn’t begin as a tradition. But, after we did it once or twice there became something nice and familiar about our weekly dates. They change a little every time (once we baked, and once my car got towed … oops), but as with most good traditions, the foundation stays the same.
I know all traditions aren’t warm and fuzzy. Some we’d like to abolish once and for all. I have one friend who always winds up sick for sorority formals and another who always gets stuck in the middle seat on her family’s cross-country driving sprees. But, even the traditions we wish would disappear are little reminders that sometimes the chaos of life does have a little pattern, a little rhyme or reason. I’m no statistics whiz (numbers and I don’t see eye to eye), but it seems to me that things can’t be entirely random if they occur more than once.
Traditions remind us that sometimes predictability can be comforting. The realization that you’ve created something worth repeating is oddly satisfying, and I consider myself fortunate to have companionship and occasions that are worth repeat performances.
EMILY KAPLAN is wondering how many other people out there are obsessed with stumbleupon.com. If you are, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.