The Non-traditional Traditionalist

Posted on November 23, 2012


As a former social sciences student (actually, once a social sciences student, always a social sciences student, if you follow me), I find myself thinking more about what people do and why (including myself) than your average Joe likely does. Holiday traditions, for example, are an interesting subject to me.

I mean, when you really look at just how much attachment is placed upon something like purchasing a Christmas tree, for example, an outsider would find it absolutely absurd without context. Even within context, if you consider the social and monetary obligations we impose upon ourselves (or allow others to impose upon us) over decorating a dead tree that we have no intentions of keeping, it seems pretty pointless, yet we mindlessly do it year after year.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy your holiday in whatever manner you see fit, of course. All I am saying is that there are a lot of things that we do without really considering the motivations that seem pretty silly when you take a step back.

Now I personally have little attachment to your typical holiday traditions. I may or may not get around to putting up a token tree for Christmas (if I do, it’ll be because I expect more company than usual and it’s more for their sakes than my own), I don’t get upset if I don’t go see fireworks on the 4th of July and I don’t expect turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. Those are things the plebeians worry about. 😉

That doesn’t mean I am not a man of tradition. But they are my traditions. They mean something to me personally and they are things I want to remember and celebrate. While I did break bread and share a good meal with a friend today, I made sure to observe a few of my own Thanksgiving traditions that I would like to share with you.

1.) A cheeseburger is an absolute requirement on Thanksgiving Day.

Forget the turkey; I want a quarter pound of ground beef, seasoned and grilled before very lightly melting some pepper jack on top and then slapping it onto a bun. Why, that’s an outrage! What could cause someone to so defect to such a common brand of meat?

I was raised by a single mom, who didn’t have more than a GED for education and absolutely no financial support from my father. Particularly in my younger years, we didn’t often get Christmas trees, presents were hardly bountiful on special occasions and meals were generally modest, even on the holidays. But, even if we didn’t have a large turkey dinner with all of the trimmings, mom would always be sure we had enough ground beef for cheeseburgers as something special. Once I got older (especially after my mother remarried), we were able to do the more traditional Thanksgiving, but we would still have a cheeseburger, usually later in the evening once the afternoon’s meal had settled.

I still have a few memories of places we were when we had those Thanksgiving burgers; once while snowed in our cabin on Nantucket, another in a diner somewhere in New York as we were traveling for the day. It always meant something to us, moreso when it wasn’t “necessary” anymore, I think. Though it went unspoken, I think the understanding was that we were remembering harder times… because who is more thankful than someone who acknowledges a “have” than someone who knows what it is like to “have not”?

My mother passed away in March 1999, half a year before my 21st birthday. She hasn’t been around for nearly the entirety of what I would consider my adult life. I’ve seen some lean times and been through a lot since, but every year, I still make it a point to have a cheeseburger sometime on Thanksgiving, whether I do the “traditional” meal or not. It reminds me of where I come from and who I shared those times with, so to me, it couldn’t be any more in spirit with the holiday.

Though I must say, the burgers have gotten a bit fancier in their preparation than they were ten years ago; momma would be proud. Onions and bell peppers cooked a bit in olive oil and sprinkled with pepper make for a nice burger garnish.

2.) Fellowship of the Ring

This one is a lot easier to explain (and a lot less likely to choke me up). We had Lord of the Rings movies to look forward to every holiday for years; even when the theater runs were over, there were still the extended DVD releases late each year. I’ve genuinely missed having that to look forward to, especially since those movies have a lot of good memories attached to them with some people who have been my friends for over a decade now. So, even though watching them for the bazillionth time doesn’t really quite have the same impact, I still make that journey to Middle Earth starting Thanksgiving Day for Fellowship of the Ring, ending it with Return of the King on Christmas with The Two Towers falling somewhere in between.

And yes, I am very much so looking forward to The Hobbit this year, and I don’t mind them stretching it out over 3 movies, although that might complicate my yearly tradition if I decide both trilogies should become mandatory viewing annually. Maybe I can alternate them?

3.) Black Friday shopping.

This is a bit more conventional, I admit. I had a roommate who got me into it, and after realizing how much money I just saved on a plethora of geeky goodness (movies, games, electronics, pc parts, oh my), I was hooked. As stores have become less insistent on luring customer into the stores, it has moved to predominantly online shopping on the event, but I remember standing in freezing rain (literally, it was a degree or two short of sleet or snow) for several hours to snag a sweet deal on a PS3 bundle (with The Dark Knight bluray and 2 games included) and my first HDTV. I would have done it all over again, in a heartbeat.

This year’s take has been less awe inspiring. Amazon’s Lightning Deals have been a bit too aptly named; I am currently 0 for 5, and I was waiting at my computer before they each started. They were sold out and the waitlist full before I could press the button as it rolled over to available. Granted, none of those things I particularly cared that much about, but it feels like a bait and switch. I am already pretty well geeked out at this point though, but buying clothes on Black Friday just seems lame.

However, this is a good year to stock up on blurays. While my collection is already upwards of 250-300 movies and TV shows on bluray and DVD, I did manage to find a few things I wanted for cheap, mostly DC animated flicks that I wouldn’t pay full price for, such as Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman: Year One, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Justice League: Doom and Superman / Batman: Public Enemies, all of which were $3-7 a pop. I also snagged Assassin’s Creed 3 for FREE 99 (I had some Amazon credit saved up) and Borderlands 2 and Dishonored for $25 each.

There are still two bigger deals brewing in the shadows, but we’ll see if they actually come to light or if I even bite when they do. What are these magical deals of hope and wonder? I’ll let you know after I snag them; why would I want to give myself competition? 😉

Time for me to go watch Wednesday’s Arrow. Tell me about some of your more odd holiday traditions or Black Friday finds.

See you next time, Space Cowboy.