Ah, the good old summertime. A time to enjoy the outdoors, to forget your problems and concentrate on your tan, if you have one. Who doesn’t like the summer time? Summer is simply God’s way of rewarding us for surviving the winter.
Thinking of summer, what would it be like without the traditional summer picnic and family get together? Every family has its own tradition in this area. These traditions have a way of defining our families and give us a sense of belonging.
Of course, most have no idea where their tradition came from or even why. Family traditions are like modern poetry — they have neither rhyme nor reason.
Typically, a tradition is anything done at least one time in front of some witness, real or imagined. Once that happens, your family is burdened with that “tradition” for the rest of time. This is then passed down from one generation to the next and by the time it gets to the “next” generation, nobody has any idea of what it means.
However, every family fears if breaking that “tradition,” something ominous will happen to the family. In my family, there are several traditions I think the consequences of breaking them just might outweigh the drudgery of keeping them. However, to keep on the safe side, I’ll keep them, thank you.
Family traditions, whatever they may be, are the price you pay for being born in that family. Now, if you really want a good family tradition, simply pick your parents very carefully. If you picked the wrong parents, you have no right complaining about those awful family traditions.
Our family has certain traditions I hate but I put up with for fear of offending somebody in the family. Since I don’t know where a certain tradition came from it’s hard to tell who would be offended if I broke with the tradition.
Family traditions come in many forms. The most popular family traditions are “oral traditions.” An oral tradition is something that never actually happened, or at least the probability of it ever happening is remote; people just talk about it.
The more the family talks about it the bigger it becomes. Proving its validity is impossible; it is simply passed down from one generation to the next as an oral tradition. None who wants to keep in good standing with the family would dare question the legitimacy of that tradition.
These “oral” family traditions need some vehicle to keep them circulating, especially among the younger members. The annual summer family get- together is the most logical place to circulate these “oral traditions.” The older members of the family attend just to make sure the oral tradition is not overlooked and watch for opportunities to expand them.
For me, it’s a toss up as to what is worse; going to these family get-togethers or staying home and hearing about your absence for the rest of your life. Every family has an Aunt Bertha who thinks the unpardonable sin is not showing up at the annual family picnic get- together. The no-shows usually end up in good old Aunt Bertha’s Purgatory for the rest of their life, and no amount of penance will ever get them out.
Of course, on the positive side, there are many reasons why it is important to go to the annual family get-together. Well, maybe not that many reasons, but a few worth considering.
For instance, going to the annual family picnic is a great means of creating a spirit of thankfulness for your children. Throughout the year, you might have some pessimistic thoughts about your own children.
Driving home from the family picnic, both you and your spouse can be thankful you don’t have Uncle Henry’s children. No matter how bad your children might be at times, Uncle Henry’s children have them beat, hands-down. And there was one time during the picnic you wanted to beat them with your hands. Perhaps the best reason some relatives have children is to show you how good your children are in comparison.
Also, for the newly engaged, the family get together is a good rite of passage for your intended. If your fiancée can handle your side of the family, she can handle you when you become old and senile.
If during the long wintertime you have grown a little nostalgic and have a twinge of homesickness, especially if you live miles from home, the annual family get-together is a good antidote. Five minutes at the picnic and you remember all the reasons why you left home in the first place.
The old family picnic is God’s way of reminding you who you really are. No matter how crazy your family may seem at any one time, it’s still your family and part of what and who you are.
There is a spiritual application to this. From God’s standpoint, it is important to get away from the rigors of daily life and rest.
Jesus recommended this when he said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 — 30 KJV.)
When you think of it, Sunday morning worship is God’s family getting together. No tradition does more for a person than this one.
Read more articles by James Snyder or search for articles on the same topic or others.