Ye Olde Family Picnic Tradition
James L. Snyder
Ah, the good old summertime. A time to enjoy the outdoors, to forget your problems and concentrate on your tan, if you have one. Who doesn’t like the summertime? Summer is simply God's way of rewarding us for surviving the winter.
Thinking of summer, what would they be like without the traditional summer picnic and family get-together? Every family has their own tradition in this area. Of course, most have no idea where their tradition came from or even why. Family traditions are like modern poetry – they have neither rhyme nor reason.
Typically, a tradition is anything done at least one-time in front of some witness. Once that happens, your family is burdened with that “tradition” for the rest of all time. Passed down from one generation to the next, by the time it gets to the “next” generation, nobody has any idea of what it means. However, every family fears in breaking that “tradition,” something ominous will happen to the family.
This family tradition, whatever it may be, is the price you pay for being born in that family. Now, if you really want a good family tradition simply pick your parents very carefully. If you picked the wrong parents, you have no right complaining about those awful family traditions.
Our family has certain traditions I hate but I put up with them for fear of offending somebody in the family. Not knowing where the tradition came from, it's hard to tell who would be offended if I broke with the tradition.
The most popular family traditions are “oral traditions.” An oral tradition is something that never really happened, people just talk about it. The more the family talks about it the bigger it becomes. Proving its validity is impossible; it is simply passed down from one generation to the next as an oral tradition. Anybody who wants to keep in good standing with the family would not dare question the legitimacy of that tradition.
The annual summer family picnic get-together is the most logical place to circulate these “oral traditions.” The older members of the family attend just to make sure the oral tradition is not overlooked and watch for opportunities to expand them.
For me, it’s a toss-up as to what is worse; going to these family get-togethers or staying home and hearing about your absence for the rest of your life. Every family has an Aunt Bertha who thinks the unpardonable sin is not showing up at the annual family picnic get-together. The no-shows usually end up in good old Aunt Bertha’s Purgatory for the rest of their life, and no amount of penance will ever get them out.
Of course, on the positive side, there are many reasons why it is important to go to the annual family picnic get-together. Well, maybe not that many reasons, but a few worth considering.
For instance, going to the annual family picnic get-together is a great means of creating a spirit of thankfulness for your children. Throughout the year, you might have some negative thoughts about your own children. Driving home from the annual family picnic, both you and your wife can be thankful you don’t have Uncle Henry’s children. No matter how bad your children might be at times, Uncle Henry’s children have them beat hands-down. And there was one time during the picnic you wanted to beat them with your hands. Perhaps the best reason some relatives have children is to show you how good your children are in comparison.
Also, for the newly engaged, the family picnic get-together is a good rite of passage for your intended. If your fiancée can handle your side of the family, she can handle you when you become old and senile.
If during the long wintertime you have grown a little nostalgic and have a twinge of homesickness, especially if you live miles from your home, the annual family picnic get-together is a good antidote. Five minutes at the picnic and you remember all of the reasons why you left home in the first place.
The old family picnic get-together is God's way of reminding you who you really are.
The Rev. James L. Snyder is an award winning author and popular columnist living with his wife, Martha, in Ocala, Florida and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.