The Problem with My Inner Griswold

Erik Cooper —  November 28, 2011 — 2 Comments

Confession: At 6PM each Thanksgiving, the pumpkins magically turn into wreaths, and I turn into Clark W. Griswold.

Not Wally World Griswold.

Not Big Ben Griswold.

Definitely not Las Vegas Griswold.

Christmas Vacation Griswold. You know, the last funny movie Chevy Chase made (sorry, were you a fan of 2004’s Karate Dog?). That Clark Griswold. The eternal optimist. The schmaltzy traditionalist. (The accident prone).

Something really strange happens to me during the Christmas season:

  • I enjoy corny musical arrangements I would mock openly in the New Year. Click here for my Spotify Christmas Playlist.
  • I get all teary eyed hanging the “Our First Christmas 1995” ornament on the tree.
  • I climb on ladders (please don’t tell my life insurance company).

Christmas has always been a wonder to me. A Hallmark Channel movie event. And the older I get, the more I realize my deep desire to hold onto those deep, warm feelings. To recreate them with my own children.

That’s the beauty of tradition. These constant markers that ground us. That ignite the senses. Remind us of what’s important. Of who God is. Of who He says we are.

Christmas Eve candlelight services.

The aroma of evergreen.

Advent calendars with daily family activities each day of December.

Homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

There’s life in our human traditions (something I’d never have said to you in my early 20’s). Christmas never fails to remind me of that. But in the midst of all this Yuletide joy and celebration, I do feel a quiet sense of warning.

Traditions are beautiful. But I want to live, not just strive to re-live. I can get so obsessive about recreating past experiences, feelings, and sensations, that I completely miss the new ones happening right in front of me. That’s a shame. I want to enjoy these memories as they’re being created, not just when they’re hazy images I replay in my head.

So here’s this year’s Holiday challenge:

Embrace your inner Griswold! Bask fully in all your Christmas traditions! Create some new ones! Be schmaltzy and sentimental! Shut down your city’s power grid with 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights!

Just remember: Traditions are a link to our past, not an excuse to keep living there. Live fully in every moment…today.

2 responses to The Problem with My Inner Griswold

  1. Interesting thought. Mother never decorated until the Sunday before Christmas. As soon as I had my own place to decorate I started right after Thanksgiving. Now I understand. We barely had time to celebrate Thanksgiving before we were back outside taking advantage of pretty days to get farm work done – my first year for that. I think about decorating for Christmas, but that will have to wait this year. I’ll try to get it started by the Sunday before Christmas. As a kid we baked I don’t know how many kinds of cookies and candies. I used to keep that tradition. However, I began to realize that everyone who received my cookies didn’t really need mine too. I also watched my waisteline expanding and expanding. Now we decide on one treat for the season. Afterall, there’s just 2 of us. This year, with Christmas on Sunday we will probably have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and then leftovers on Christmas Day when we get home from church or maybe after we go out to the dairy to draw our milk for the week. Yes, Sunday is our milk day and even on Christmas it is our milk day. I don’t know when we will unwrap gifts. Maybe we won’t even wrap them this year. That would be different. We shop together for lots of them and most of the ones that come from far away places from family are food that we start eating when they arrive. I think our tradition is to do it together – what ever it is – and then to remember together how it once was. Now that we’ve applied to be adoptive parents, maybe we will begin to consider how it might be. I love traditions, but as life changed I had to move forward even though sometimes I miss the traditions.

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