Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire- Gustav Mahler
I love this quote because it highlights the reality that we must first examine our traditions in order to determine their relevancy. Why do we do what we do as families? And is this practice still meaningful to us based on our current values?
It’s with this in mind that my family begins the Easter weekend, preparing to embark on our traditional visit home back to South Carolina to spend time with my mom, grandma, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc. There will be easter egg hunts, new outfits, big meals, it’s a fun gathering. Usually, we cap the weekend attending Easter service in our Sunday best with one of the grandmothers. This year will be a little different because even though we’ll be doing all of these things, we’ll be in Atlanta for half of the weekend sharing this tradition with family in Atlanta as well. It’s new, so of course I feel some kind of way about it. Still, we’ll be in South Carolina all day today, so that’s something. We’ll get to carry out most of our traditions, and who knows, perhaps we’ll even start a new one.
Which brings me to my point: I wouldn’t feel some kind of way about this change in events (something that we’ve done predictably every year since Riley was born, so now for 6 years and counting), had this tradition not mattered to me. Probably the biggest part of the traditional Easter experience that I’m kind of sad to see go this year is the fact that my kids won’t get to be a part of the traditional “black church easter experience.” Although we both grew up in traditional black churches, my wife and I now attend a non-traditional, more youthful and family oriented “mega-church” back in Atlanta. Our kids love going, every Sunday they’re excited about going to church (something that neither of us can say we felt while growing up). Church may have become like a second home for us as kids, but it was more like the extended family you had to be with, not necessarily the one we would have chosen for ourselves.
While we’re happy with the choice we’ve made because we wanted our children to have a faith experience that was more interactive, diverse, and relevant to their world (and one that our family could share), we do wonder how we will also expose them to some of the positive aspects of the faith experience that we had growing up as well. For example, I’m secretly horrified that my daughters will likely grow up not knowing any hymns lol. And when exactly are they supposed to have the experience of sitting behind a church mother with a big wide brimmed Sunday hat, passing peppermints in the pew, playing in the hymn books… oh the memories of past traditions.
But, I guess the point is that we’re also forging new traditions out of old ones. Ones that we’ve actively chosen. The common theme is we (like our parents before us), wanted faith to be a big part of our family’s tradition, and thus we’ve carved out time for it as a household. This I can be happy with, because it really is the best of both world since it’s what works for us. That’s really how thoughtful tradition building works, piecing together experiences that can be shared and enjoyed by all. Samantha and I were fortunate enough to come from similar faith backgrounds, and to meet in similar phases of our lives where we were ready to explore new faith traditions. As we’ve grown our family, out of our conscious decision has emerged what I hope will be a tradition of exploring faith with family that our children will continue.