“Tradition and heritage are dead peoples’ baggage. Quit carrying them around.”
Doug Stanhope said that (or a close proximity thereof) and he is, essentially, correct. It really depends on which traditions you honor, why you continue to do so and if you get anything meaningful out of them.
This is why the best traditions are the ones you make yourself.
It was Christmas of 1986 when my parents purchased their first VCR. At the time they didn’t know they were on the losing side of the video battle by bringing a Beta into the house*, but that didn’t matter because, holy crap, we had a VCR!
After Dad spent a half hour trying to hook it up, getting mad, proclaiming it broken and stomping off**, my brother and I figured it out and got it running. After breakfast and some mild grumbling, Dad proudly pulled out the two videos he had rented for our Christmas morning viewing:
Conan The Barbarian and Conan The Destroyer.
That’s right, on Christmas morning my family sat around the TV and watched Arnold slice and slur his way through Cimmeria and we ate it up. Hindsight being what it is, I’m pretty sure the VCR was a last minute purchase and those were the last two videos in the rental store, but it didn’t matter. We watched them back to back and never once stopped laughing, realizing the absurdity of these films on Big Baby J’s birthday.
We watched those two movies every Christmas morning for years.
Once I moved away, the tradition stopped. It wasn’t as funny without all of us together, and once my brother moved out Mom & Dad switched over to The Muppet Christmas Carol for their holiday viewing (Dad really likes Rizzo the Rat). But every Christmas somebody will bring it up and people look at us strange, but it was ours and that made it worthwhile.
That’s the other thing about traditions – it’s important to know when to let them die. When you go through the motions because “it’s what we’ve always done” and it no longer holds any real significance, stop. It’s better to have the memory of that time with how important and fun it was, not add some new dread of the holidays.
That being said, in October of 2010 Neil Gaiman wondered why there are no holidays where people give one another books and decided to remedy this oversight.
I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.
This grand idea, now called All Hallow’s Read, is sure to referenced in October.
While toying with the idea of a second book-giving holiday*** on either Douglas Adams birthday (March 11) or, perhaps more appropriately, Mr. Gaiman’s (November 10), I discovered St. George’s Day, which falls on April 23rd. According to Wikipedia, the traditional gift is a flower and book and is not widely celebrated in the United States (if at all).
Yes, there are religious connotations, but we ignore them for all other holiday’s why should this one be different? Plus it makes me giggle giving books on a holy day. The Literatti vs. The Illuminati, if you will.
And really, the saint is named George. How do you beat that?
There is nothing more powerful than a book. The ability to move you from one state of reality and into another without pharmaceutical help is a wondrous thing. And there are so many out there, waiting to be discovered. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, collected works…even if it’s out of your wheelhouse, it should at least be on the boat.
I understand not everybody reads, and mores the shame, so maybe for this first go-round share it only with folks who would at least appreciate the idea. Giving a non-reader a book can be awkward; sometimes they take it as a judgment. It’s not, it shouldn’t be, and with all traditions you should do your damnedest to make it fun, not a chore. And maybe someday (with enough time, patience and the proper PR machine) folks will WANT to read.
Regardless, this Saturday, stop by your local independent bookseller (new or used) and give someone a book. (And a flower, if you want to be orthodox about the whole process. Reformed can get away with a card with a flower on it. Lapsed just give the book.) Maybe something you know the recipient has been talking about or an author you enjoy. Maybe something neither of you have read. Maybe a graphic novel. It can be whatever. If they don’t like it, fine. It’s not a big deal.
The idea isn’t to force people to read.
The idea is to share books.
The idea is to celebrate.
* When it comes to electronic consumer goods, my family will inevitably pick the losing horse. Dad swore by GE products for decades and refused to have anything else in the house. You know what GE made well circa 1970-1990? Shitty electronic consumer goods.
** Sadly, I have inherited this genetic flaw ad do not get along with things that have electricity flowing through them. At best, we have a grudging truce. In this scenario, consider electronics to be Kim Il Jong while I play the role of South Korea.
*** What if you don’t like scary books? Seems you get left out, no? Support Teen Literacy Day is cool, but again – teens, not everybody.