Monday, November 22, 2010


When my wife and I were dating, she told me about a tradition that her family celebrated during birthdays. When it was your birthday, after you took your first bite of cake, if anyone could make you talk before you finished your piece of cake, you had to finish eating your cake under the table. Huh? While a bit afraid of what future gatherings with the in-laws might become, I chalked it up to the fact that they were from Wisconsin and I married her anyway (luckily)! When the average annual temperature in Northern Wisconsin is 39 degrees F, I guess there isn't much to do except celebrate quirky, eat-your-cake-under-the-table traditions.

An editorial by Rainer Kocsis reads, "Tradition is generally defined as long-standing beliefs, practices or customs that have been passed on from one generation to the next. As humans begin to understand a heretofore unknown world of medical marvels and instant communication, traditions are being lost as humans misunderstand the value of tradition." We live in a culture where innovation often trumps tradition and not always to the benefit of society.

Traditions create bonds and facilitate memories. They deepen relationships and provide motivation to connect. In short, traditions are the underpinnings for healthy communities as they weave us together in a common way.

When this article prints, the Y will have held our 8th Annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. The event has grown from a few hundred participants to an anticipated 1,700 friends, families, and neighbors this year. The event have moved beyond a way to get a bit of exercise before a big Thanksgiving meal, to an event that the community celebrates. Awareness is raised for good causes as teams of people where color coordinated shirts during the race! People in costume heighten the festivities and entertain the kids! Smaller communities of churches and neighborhoods and coworkers and friends come together in a larger gathering to celebrate the day and be thankful for what we too often take for granted, all while strengthening the foundations of community through honoring traditions.

This holiday season, be intentional about honoring, celebrating, or even creating traditions with your family or friends. One of our friends takes strips of paper and writes something that they are thankful for each day throughout the holiday season, culminating in a paper chain of thankfulness that they string across their living room. At our home, we have birthday cake on Christmas morning to celebrate the the birth of Jesus. (While we value the faith focus that this tradition brings, we're still not certain that the additional sugar load on Christmas morning is a good idea for the lil' ones. And we haven't yet figured out how to explain why Jesus would want us to sit under the table to eat cake). We used to live in Las Vegas, a very transient city, and a former coworker always had a large holiday celebration where they invited everyone that they knew that didn't have family local. It was a great time. Another family that we know chooses a toy or piece of clothing that they like and that is in good condition and boxes them up for a family in need, symbolizing the value of not just giving off the top, but giving something of value and importance.

This season, hold onto positive, healthy traditions. Whether it's running a 5k in a Pilgrim costume or eating your birthday cake under the table, it's in these moments that our stories are written... and valued... and remembered. Happy Holidays!