Trying to break traditions.

I’m going to making some changes to this blog which necessitated holding off publishing for a few days. I intend on the change happening sometime this weekend. Between that and a schedule change at work I should resume posting on a more regular basis. My writing habits haven’t changed so I hope it isn’t too annoying that I had to publish so many posts in one day.

I don’t know what took me so long to bring up this topic. This relates to something that happened last Saturday but I’m just now thinking of writing about it. For a couple of years now I’ve been trying to get my family to stop exchanging gifts with me for Christmas. My primary reason is that I find the religion morally reprehensible and thus I find the gift exchange as part of the festivities of a holiday that celebrates said religion. I don’t mind showing up for a family get-together with a meal. I can at least keep quiet about the fact that people around me are eating meat, another activity that I find offensive. I should also mention that another good reason to not exchange gifts is a matter of economy. I have a hard time affording gifts even for the four people I exchange with. That’s not to mention how hard it’s been getting in recent years to get anything for the others.

So far nobody even takes me seriously. They try pointing out that I accept their gifts as if to say that I really don’t find the practice offensive. What they fail to remember is that I got them something as well, in a blind panic during the season when I didn’t manage to coax them into not exchange gifts. Aside from that, it’s rude to refuse a gift. I have told both my father and his girlfriend that they spend way too much money on me but that always falls on deaf ears as well.

Finally this weekend at a family get-together my sister brought up the idea that we don’t exchange gifts this year all around. She only brought up the topics of finance and difficulty finding gifts. Not once was religion mentioned (I won’t divulge their religions but I will say that I’m not the only non-Christian in the group). Unfortunately the matter was not settled by the time we all went home. My father and his girlfriend were clearly not happy but they didn’t get too upset. Compromises were offered but none were accepted yet.

The most interesting position I found was that of my brother-in-law. He kept quiet because he felt that it was our family tradition so he was going to go with whatever we decided. It was the tradition part that got to me. The only way that I could justify to myself the gift-giving every year was that it was a tradition that really isn’t part of the religion anyway. So would it be so bad for me, morally, to accept gifts? Perhaps not. But now in my mind the financial arguments become more important. Isn’t the fact that we can’t afford the tradition good reason enough to give it up? I think so. After all, is tradition so important?

Generally speaking, I say no. There are reasons to keep tradition: continuity, solidarity, ease of decision-making, etc. But there is a fine line between tradition and lack of originality. Keeping tradition for tradition’s sake in light of good reason to break it is bad logic. I understand that if one practices a tradition for decades personally that it would be hard to give up. It’s hard to let go. Sometimes, though, one has to.

I won’t go to much further in to my family’s business. I wanted to use the example to illustrate my point about tradition. I won’t even report what the family decides unless it relates to another topic that I want to write about. Hopefully this year won’t cost me as much money as previous years. They’re already cutting down my overtime at work (usually it goes up again around the holidays, but that isn’t guaranteed). But if we do decide to exchange gifts, I hope everybody is happy with my dinky cheap presents this time around.


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