December 17, 2021
Two years ago, a friend of ours started a new tradition for our group. He announced several weeks in advance we would hold a “craziest sock” contest and challenged everyone to wear their wildest pair of socks. I was not interested as I wear two colors of socks. I have white crew athletic socks and black crew dress socks. I used to have different colors that I pinned together so I would never lose a “left sock”, but after years of questions and ribbing I stopped pinning my socks. Instead, if they are all the same color even if I lose one, they will still match. Melissa thought I should enter the contest and bought me a crazy pair of socks to wear to the meeting. I won, and the prize was our friend’s Mr. Burns doll. This was a prized possession so he must have thought he would win.
When I worked for the state, our office had a tradition of a White Elephant Christmas gift exchange. Everyone would place their gift under the tree, and we would draw numbers for the order to choose a gift. Then you could either choose a wrapped package or take a gift already selected by someone earlier. While some brought nice or at least practical gifts, others of us tried to find outrageous gifts that would then be regifted. These gifts set the bar and were disguised in packaging the following year so they would again be a surprise. While sulking through the basement of my college building, I found a discarded plaster cardinal. The velveteen red surface had worn down and the beak had chipped off after someone dropped it. I knew this was my next gift the moment I saw it.
Even though I never wear crazy socks, I wore the pair melissa had purchased to our meeting. It was a tight contest with seven of us vying for the title Craziest Socks. I took my Mr. Burns doll home and proudly displayed it in my office. The next year I was prepared to bring it back when covid closed the meetings. By next year I had moved on to another group but knew I should return the doll to allow the tradition to continue. Since we had missed a year, I thought I would spruce up the trophy. I found a small wooden box with a sliding lid that was just large enough to hold the doll. I polished the box and then ceremoniously returned the trophy to our friend. His first reaction was, “Why are you giving me an urn?” When he opened the box, he also thought this was the perfect look to continue the tradition.
Thoughts: The recipient of the worn cardinal proudly displayed the statue in their office to be regifted for several months, then it disappeared. No one would confess to who took the cardinal or why. Six months later a post card showed up at work with the worn cardinal standing next to the Tower of Pisa in Italy. The caption on the back said, “Having a great time. Wish you were here!” The postcards continued over the year, with one postmarked from the Gobi Desert in China and another from the Philippines. Alas, the cardinal must have been having too much fun, as it did not return for our White Elephant tradition. Still, a new tradition of craziness had been born. As we approach Christmas, we relish it as a time of tradition. Some tradition may extend over the last 1000 years, while others are a recent family tradition. Like the box and the cardinal, tradition may change along with circumstances. The purpose of tradition is always the same, to connect us to the past, to bring joy for the present, and to provide hope for the future. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.