Friday, January 6, 2012

Uncle Eddie's Mexican Dip ... And Why It's Important

Growing up, my family was all about tradition.  I come from a very predictable family, one that isn’t at all open to much spontaneity.  This was particularly true when it came to holidays.  I could recite–to the detail–the exact unfolding of our Christmas morning activities.  I will spare you the not-so-gripping specifics, but let me assure you that there certainly were specifics that repeated, year after year.
It almost wouldn’t seem like Christmas without Uncle Eddie’s Mexican dip, which makes its appearance on an annual basis.
Now I find myself in an entirely new position.  No longer do I have the all-too familiar role of daughter within my parent’s household.  Now I am the mother and wife in my own household.  Suddenly, the rules have changed and I am faced with the perplexing situation that…there is no tradition.
What do you do exactly on Christmas morning?  Do we open presents with wild abandon, as had been practiced in my household of origin?  Do I serve scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee cake, or do I go way out on a limb and make pancakes instead?
In a way, creating traditions is supremely exciting.  My husband and I have a blank slate of years of tradition before us and we can shape and create it in whatever way we want.  If we want to open presents while listening to the Beach Boys and wearing bathing suits–now’s the time to do it!
There is something within the heart of each one of us that craves tradition.  We seek it out and we desire that familiarity that repeats with an assurance and habitualness that provides us a strange comfort.  My husband, listening to a homily from Fr. Paul Scalia of St. John the Beloved Parish in McLean, VA, quoted me a line from the priest, something alone the lines of: Repetition is humanity’s way of approximating eternity.
Our hearts are created for eternity and so, consciously or unconsciously, that’s what we try to recreate.

Our family is still building tradition.  It seems to me it needs to be organic, developing gradually and naturally from among the family members.  So we haven’t developed all of our Christmas traditions just yet, but we’ve started.
I hope we don’t repeat the bowl of cereal for Christmas breakfast (ran out of time for anything more!), but I do intend for us to repeat a practice we did before any presents were opened: placing the baby Jesus in His crib and singing Him “Happy Birthday.”
And, it goes without saying, I look forward to Uncle Eddie’s dip next year, too!

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