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Same Darn Thing Every Year

Published online: Dec 12, 2023 Holidays, Lifestyle
Viewed 728 time(s)

For some, the holidays are all about traditions. We do the same things every year that we did as children because that is what our parents did and their parents did before them. Some traditions evoke pleasant memories, and others we couldn’t even explain why we do them. Every so often something happens that allows us to start new traditions and cast off old meaningless ones.

In 1964, there was a very popular Broadway musical called “Fiddler on the Roof.” In 1971, it was made into an Oscar-winning film. If you were alive at the time, then you undoubtedly remember several songs that became popular even though the story was set in a Jewish peasant village during the pogroms of Czarist Russia. 

If you have never seen it, then you are missing out on part of our collective history and need to add it to your streaming list.

The musical starts off with a piece called “Tradition.” The song tells how traditions give us balance and direction. In a time when hardly anything in the world changed, traditions were valid reference points for how we should live. In the story and increasingly in today’s world, change is never-ending. What worked in the past is no guarantee of what will work today and certainly not tomorrow. 

In order to help keep me occupied and with minimal time to get into trouble, my parents had me spend much of my teen years playing string bass in a variety of school and civic orchestras. Because this was the period right after Fiddler had been such a big success, without fail each musical group chose to perform pieces from or even the entire musical. 

Interestingly, performing “Tradition” became a tradition for many of these orchestras. One of my sons even performed in a production of Fiddler when he was in junior high, fifty years after the movie. I bet many are still performing it annually even now!

For many of us, the “facts” of the world we live in change every time our phone screen refreshes. Just because something was true this morning doesn’t mean some newly discovered information this afternoon won’t make something else the truth by this evening. With so many of our traditions being obsolete or outdated, finding balance becomes increasingly difficult. 

We need to constantly review our traditions to make sure they are still the best for us. We need to make sure they still have meaning in our lives, families, and friends.

Starting to do new things that we hope will become a tradition is actually pretty easy. The hard part is whether they will stick. Sometimes it seems like something should make a great tradition, but it just doesn’t grab. Other times, the cringiest things go viral. How did ugly Christmas sweaters become such a thing that companies now compete to see who can mass-produce the tackiest sweaters possible?

Sometimes we unfortunately need to have someone either move away or even die before we can change some traditions. My recently departed nearly 98-year-old father-in-law loved minced meat pie for the holidays. No one else in the family could even pretend that they liked it! Each year we would buy a minced meat pie, but no one else would touch it. Every year we ended up throwing away the pie with only one slice eaten. This year, we won’t be buying any minced meat pies. Kinda sad, but not really. 

It’s okay to let traditions die, rather than drag them on indefinitely without any joy or sense of purpose. In the end, that was the real message of Fiddler on the Roof.  Life goes on and it is up to the living to make sense of it all and plant the seeds for what might become new traditions.

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