Saturday, October 31, 2015

Carving Traditions

For as long as I can remember, my Halloween has not been complete without carving pumpkins. 

A night or two before All Hallows' Eve, my mom, dad, brother, and I all face a critical decision: what pumpkin do we want to carve and which pattern do we choose.  Our 4 (or 5, or 6 depending on how carried away we get) pumpkins stand at attention and undergo a careful examination by every one of us.  Eventually, each canvas is drafted by their artist, and awaits patiently to be sculpted in the kitchen.
Our years-old pumpkin carving patterns and books hold the fashion designs for the Jack-'O-Lanterns.  As my family and I flip through the pages, we fight back and forth between carving traditional scary faces or spooky images.  Decisions are finally made once we find the designs that best fit the size and shape of their model.

Now on to the carving!
There is nothing scenic or magazine-picture quality about our appearance.  Armed in our sweats and junky clothes, we all gather around a large, cut-up black plastic garbage bag that is laid out across the kitchen floor.  A big, blue bowl sits empty, ready to collect only the amount of pumpkin seeds that we actually feel like carefully plucking out.  Those tiny, orange, plastic pokers and saws from carving kits, used year-after-year, are spread out along with actual knives that some of us bravely use.  The patterns crinkly stick to each pumpkin surface, taped in whatever way they could be fit.  We use a white plastic grocery bag to collect all those gunky pumpkin innards that we constantly have to hide away from our pumpkin-loving dog.  There is complaining about the incredible thickness of some of the gourds; there is cheering when an inside isn't too gooey or filled.  We sure don't look fancy, nor do we try to put on a false show; we just all simply have fun with our tradition. 
In a world that is caught up on putting on appearances and creating complicated productions out of almost every activity, I can't stress enough how liberating it feels to follow a tradition with your family.  Since traditions usually date back at least a few years, the activity is almost simple to a certain extent.  It is usually raw, not having evolved much with the years.  Rather, the tradition typically holds onto the same attributes and activities enjoyed many years ago, making it feel less complex and more carefree.

Traditions bring on similar nostalgic feelings to those that arise when reminiscing about the innocence of childhood experiences.  The basic freshness of following traditions is partially caused by not having the pressure to look a certain way or to broadcast a particular image.   Instead of concentrating on judgment and criticism, you can completely absorb the atmosphere.  Without all these distractions, you fully enjoy the activity and your company.  Since traditions are "older", they give you an excuse to escape from modern perceptions.  You can act goofy, make a fool of yourself, ignore the beacon cast out by technology, all because you are following tradition.

While some traditions may be more extravagant than others, in general, they remind us that pure fun and enjoyment are not the result of adding bells and whistles.  Sure, traditions may adapt to current circumstances.  Perhaps the pumpkin patch you have been visiting for years now has haunted hay rides or pumpkin spice lattes.  Now when I carve a pumpkin, I'm not afraid to try more complicated designs and my brother will once-in-a-while bring out a drill to cut out some pieces.  But these adaptations aren't the reason that you are enjoying yourself; the memories and meanings behind the tradition are why you have fun.  For once, the exterior doesn't control our feelings; the inner core values do.  That is the power of tradition.  It doesn't dangle treats in front of you, tempting you to have fun.  Instead, the fun naturally occurs from relishing the experience. 
    
No matter how old you get, I encourage every one of you to hold on to your traditions.  Carve a pumpkin.  Dress in costume.  Enjoy the moment.  
Happy Halloween!

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