I wouldn’t say that I dislike traditions; it’s amazing to see how long they can last, connecting people of the present, past, and potentially future. However, for me, most traditions quickly lose their appeal. I’m not sure whether this disheartening fact comes from watching apathetic bodies going through passed down motions, or from my vigorous post-modern education begging me to challenge all routine—but whatever the roots, the non-traditional tree that grew from them was a dracena marginata.
Also known as a Madagascar Dragon Tree, the dracena marginata has replaced the predominant pine as the congregation site for gifts in my apartment.
- Because it was a tree that I already owned.
- Because I’m still in school (and, therefore, can’t afford a second tree).
- And because the type of tree I have is completely irrelevant to my enjoyment of the holiday.
Christmas dinner was equally as non-traditional this year. Instead of a Christmas-meat with sides, we feasted on mac-n-cheese and vegetables (with a tiny bit of bacon because I’m the worst vegetarian ever).
Oh, and some homemade sangria.
…and some rosé champagne.
“But Michael,” you might think, “today is Christmas Eve Eve! Why are you talking about Christmas as if you celebrated it on a day that wasn’t the 25th of December?” Sure enough: not only did I already celebrate Christmas on the 20th of December, I will also celebrated it again on the 22nd, and even more times on the 23rd, and 25th.
Because Christmas traditions weren’t created for young adults in the twenty-first century. I’m willing to wager that when the people of 336 A.D. celebrated the first Christmas, they didn’t think about how their celebration might inconvenience an American college student two thousand years later.
And that’s fine. They couldn’t have imagined me—typing away monthly blog posts about my countercultural Christmas—even if they tried.
However, with that said, I reserve the right to reject their traditions altogether on the grounds that: I can do better. Sure, tradition dictates that I cut down a pine tree and put it in my house. But what if I already have a tree? Isn’t it more cost efficient and environmentally friendly to just use that already purchased, living tree? Sure, tradition dictates that I showcase a meat as the centerpiece of my meal. But what if I think that we as a society are killing too many animals and feeling too little remorse for it?
Yes, traditions are amazing in their persistence, but their stagnancy overtime is more of a shame to me than a blessing. Maybe someday, we’ll live in a world where everyone honors a different and beautiful tree in his or her home to celebrate the birth of Christ (or Santa, or whatever else you might celebrate this holiday season). Maybe someday, we’ll honor God by saving the lives of her beautiful creations, instead of slaughtering, chopping, and devouring them. Maybe someday we’ll finally practice what we preach, like me with my pseudo-vegetarianism. But for now, the current of the motions from the past sweep us towards the future, and we blissfully sing carols as we go.
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.