Christmas chili dogs
“Mom, can we have chili dogs?” This was the question from my then-4-year-old brother, Daniel, regarding Christmas day dinner that year. It was the usual family holiday insanity, packed with airport runs, last-minute errands, and family activities. Executing a traditional ham dinner with all the fixings was becoming an insurmountable feat. Daniel’s preschool class had celebrated Christmas with a “birthday party for Jesus,” meaning hot dogs, chips, and a cake. So when this idea was suggested, my mother immediately responded with a resounding “yes.” Thus began a new family tradition. We have been eating Christmas chili dogs ever since.
Standing smack dab in the middle of the holiday season – with Thanksgiving having come and gone, Christmas rapidly descending, and New Year’s just around the corner – can have us in a flurry of busyness. We are left pondering our practiced traditions. What would Christmas be without cookies, or big meals, or caroling? Well, hopefully it would still be Christmas. Traditions, particularly holiday traditions, are a tricky thing to navigate. Traditions that are meant to serve the celebration quickly become something to be served. We have a hard time letting go. Traditions have a way of connecting the past with the future, they add continuity to our celebration, and remind us of something bigger than ourselves. At their best, traditions point to the cause of the celebration. But they are something of a high wire balancing act. With all the good they give, unfortunately they can slide off the high wire and fall flat on the ground. They can become an obligation, or grow bigger than the event itself. We have all been in the situation when a tradition got bigger than the celebration. It takes the fun out of it.
Holiday traditions are something we can take an open-palm approach towards. If we have a closed fist, nothing can flow in, and nothing can float out. But if we keep an open, up-turned palm, we can still hold on to what should be kept. This gesture allows for traditions and ideas to move in and out, while still keeping our focus directed at the cause of the celebration. This holiday season, keep an open palm. Let certain ideas fall away if they must and make room for new traditions to grow.
Perhaps, even make room for chili dogs.