While I was growing up — and especially around Christmastime — I earned myself the mantle of Tradition Police among my family. My self-appointed responsibility was to ensure that, every year, we dutifully performed every Christmas Eve activity on our unwritten itinerary. If we failed, some cord of affection and memory would snap. Faith would falter. We’d miss a moment. As the then-youngest of five kids, the powers at my disposal to enforce obedience were essentially whining and passive aggression. Never underestimate the motivating force of a sullen 10-year-old.
But my reactionary, pharisaical rule was untenable, and not only because my siblings kept moving away. The problem was that I could stand additions to our holiday itinerary, but not subtractions. For instance: if we read aloud The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (a classic of the Holiday genre) last year, the Tradition Police would demand that we read it again this year. This would be in addition to an already full roster of activities, including: listening to Alan Maitland reading The Shepherd on CBC, watching It’s a Wonderful Life (a film that feels infinitely longer than its actual run time), dressing up and performing a semi-sacrilegious depiction of the Nativity story, and opening one gift (always pyjamas, always “from the Tree,” and always followed by us running out into the cold Edmonton winter, shouting Merry Christmas in our new PJs). There was a lot to get done.
Now that I’ve become one of the Children That Moved Away, my family has settled into a more streamlined Christmas Eve — pared down for the benefit of nieces and nephews with shorter attention spans and their own traditions to perform. Still, and I realize this isn’t a groundbreaking observation, there’s something incredibly powerful about traditions. They give you much-needed context.
Sharp has its own traditions around this time of year. Every December issue we curate the Winter Sharp List, a roundup of impressive gear that works perfectly as gifting suggestions for the man who, seemingly, already has everything. There’s our big, year-end automotive blowout, along with SharpWatch (formerly Time&Style). We also run our Entertain Like a Chef package to help you with the inevitable guests who arrive around the holidays. It’s not that we want to give you the same stuff every year — far from it — it’s that we know these subjects are worth returning to. They define who we are as men. Possessions are possessions, sure, but they’re also totems of identity. We are what we care about, what motivates us. And that includes more than just stuff. Still, every year we hope we do better. After all, traditions are wonderful, especially if you can improve on them. Nobody likes a hard-assed Tradition Police.