The Traditional Way

Traditions are often thought of as connective, a way of carrying the past into the present. But their character as rituals makes them very powerful demarcations, too. If they connect you and your ancestors, traditions can also be a reminder that you and your ancestors are different. As traditions approach rituals, they often become more specific or elaborate and thereby more special than everyday experience. So alternatively they may serve to separate you from those with whom you share a time and place.

(By contrast, if there's something you do all the time in a set manner or fashion, it's a habit, not a tradition.)

Every year for my birthday, my wife makes me a special kind of pastry. It's a Pavlova: a disc of meringue the size of a small pizza, topped with whipped cream, raspberries, and slivers of chocolate. We've been doing this for a number of years and at some early point it became a birthday-only thing. In the first few years, she made it once or twice for other occasions but then it became special, reserved just to this one day a year.

It's a decadent dessert, one that ought not be eaten often. Restricting it makes caloric sense. But it's now one of the many features by which we organize time, both this year and past years.

Damn delicious.