December 11, 2009

Lord of the Dance

"Dance, dance wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he..." Lyrics by Sydney Carter, Traditional Celtic arrangement
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
and lead you all in the Dance, said He!

two of several verses:

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon and the Stars and the Sun
I came down from Heaven and I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body and they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance and I still go on!
They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
words by Sydney Carter, music traditional

The holiday time is again near. All are dancing to the distinct rhythms of late fall into early winter. Along with the holiday time comes another season not often thought about, and yet it makes itself, oh, so clearly known.
For many of us, we come together in celebration and joy, creating memories and enlivening traditions and customs. Family. Even as we join into these festivities, we don't often realize where traditions come from.
For others, it isn't so harmonious. There seems to be, between partners and spouses in general and families in particular, traditions too, but they aren't universally shared.

Conflict is inevitable. She has to have it her way, and he has to have it his way. Why? Well, because his parents did it like that, and her parents held out another way. He is from Russia; she is American. To each these small, quaint rituals suddenly become important, and neither party wants to forgo what oddly seems to be a little part of themselves, a little part that gives them meaning.
It is a piece, however small or large of who they are. This sense of place and identity extends to where of the event(s) takes place, the food, the music, the progress, and the inclusion, or exclusion of certain others. It is a surprisingly "loaded" exchange.

It seems not so much to be among parents and their offspring, but more often between spouses, in laws and friends. Why so? Because social patterns are long developed, and long standing within the group. They resist incursion by others not originating of that group. So some who are brought into the group, bring their ideas too. In my family for example, we are of Scots-English origin.
Names like Fendlasson and Robertson populate our ancestry, and yes, their customs remain our own. In a nearly unbroken chain of oral tradition passed down and practiced by the kin group, we are still eating many of the same foods and drinking the same tea as our ancestors from long ago.
And it makes us happy. Why? Because we sense an eternal belonging to someone and something greater than just ourselves, a connection from present to past which all together leads to future. We are hopeful.

In a partnership there is a solution to the clashing of each other's sense of tradition. With respect and understanding, a family community may take their tradition literally and have newcomers join in, they may take parts of traditions and add a modern twist of their own, creating their own, unique versions and they may gain as much as the family did long ago in terms of connection and a sense of belonging.

I am not Greek, for example, however there are several Greeks married into our family. We have adjusted over the past half century to these "newcomers" of ours, and now Greek food is on the menu along with the traditional Scots-English foods, and we have adapted. The holiday is joyful and much simplified when we are able to carefully consider what matters most to each participant and find a way to greet traditions that are not originally our own.

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