Never misjudge the power of tradition

By Clyde Davis

There are, of course, a few bowl games left, like the last swirls of water after you drain a hot tub. Even as I write this, I anticipate watching one tonight.
There may also be remaining pieces of fruit cake, if they are not stale, and since many in our group of friends exchanged goodie baskets this Christmas, there is enough wonderful gourmet food to fuel that next great American holiday, the Super Bowl. But until that weekend rolls around, the holidays are pretty much put up on the shelf.
Thursday was New Year’s Day, and the serendipitous chain of events was set in motion by my Happy New Year call to my parents. I was talking to my mom and she mentioned they were having the usual: sauerkraut, pork, and mashed potatoes, which caused me to start whining, as this was not what we were having.
A few minutes later, my wife was on the phone with one of our friends who mentioned that someone at her house wanted posole, which was what we were preparing to eat. As it happened, that household was — you guessed it — sitting down to sauerkraut, pork and mashed potatoes.
“Away to the Windstar we flew like a flash, tore open the tailgate and threw in our stash. Over the river and through the woods, to Colonial Park we did go,” where we combined our dinners so that everyone was culinarily delighted.
There are values and there is power in tradition, whether it is a traditional meal, a customary way of celebrating joyous occasions (or for that matter mourning the loss of a loved one) or even personal rituals. We who follow the Christian traditions are celebrating Epiphany, our Jewish friends have celebrated Chanukah, and many African Americans, regardless of religion, have recognized Kwanzaa.
Each of these draws on the power of tradition to bind us and bring us together. There is also, no doubt, the value of secular tradition such as posole or sauerkraut and pork, black-eyed peas, ringin’ in the New Year with horns and dancing … oh, you name it. This column has focused a lot on tradition since the beginning of the holiday season.
n They ground us in who we are. To eat certain foods, to exchange certain gifts and or greetings, to do certain dances and play certain sports, to create certain art forms, etc., is often connected to our ethnic or regional heritage. In an increasingly Mallmart world, I hate the thought of losing my individual heritage.
n They ground us in our common humanity. Our Christmas Day guest, a student from Cameroon, was asked how Christmas would be celebrated in West Africa. His answer: A big outdoor party, with excellent food and libations, dancing and music, and family and friends gathered together. Does that sound familiar? (With all the common ground us common people share, who decided that we have to fight wars, anyway?) 
We have an obligation to our traditions, those which are secular and those which are sacred, as they bind us to our past and carry us to our future. So celebrate them with pride, and welcome the new year with a bow to the past.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at