This is article #48 to be published on the Get The Guy blog from my brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.
Matt and I broke a holy tradition yesterday.
At least, it was a holy tradition in our family.
For the last several years, every December 23rd, our Dad would always drive me, my mum, and my brothers to London to have a family pre-Christmas lunch in Harrods, Knightsbridge.
It was a meal we always looked forward to enjoying together. Champagne was drunk. Turkey was eaten. Crackers pulled (American readers, see here). Merriment was had. Etc. Though we couldn’t possibly afford any of the lavish goods on sale in the stores, we would always enjoy wandering wide-eyed through the marble-floored luxury boutiques and the endless food halls and enjoy the atmosphere.
Every year, we would eat the same appetizers, see the same festive city sights, and stroll around the same shops in Harrods afterwards to burn off our newly acquired calories. To us, this sacred ritual became a symbol for the beginning of Christmas.
We became proud of our commitment to this special day. It was our family thing. My mum would tell us that whatever else was happening in our lives, we would all have to get together every year to meet at that date for lunch, at that specific restaurant in Knightsbridge.
Well, yesterday it was time for that December 23rd tradition. Except for the first time in at least five or six years, we decided not to honour it.
Instead, on a whim, my Dad booked a dinner table at the new Duck And Waffle restaurant in London’s Heron Tower. He had discovered it a couple of months ago, and, after raving about their food and the panoramic view of the city, and having decided it was time for a change, booked it for our usual December 23rd outing. He also surprised us by booking us all seats for an IMAX film, just to inject more indulgence to the day.
And just like that, our “family thing” wasn’t a thing anymore.
It had become something different. We didn’t set foot in that Knightsbridge restaurant that was now a staple of our Christmas. It felt weird not to go at first. Like we betrayed some important obligation that was necessary to start the holiday.
But here’s the thing: Breaking the tradition was the best decision we could have made.
1. The Menu
Breaking tradition made our stomachs happier.
If we didn’t try Duck and Waffle, we would have missed out on lobster creme brulee, ox-cheek doughnuts, and of course, the duck and waffle dish (complete with fried egg and maple syrup) to which the restaurant owes it’s name.
2. The View
Breaking tradition gave us a new view.
The restaurant is on the 40th floor of Heron Tower. And the only way up is a glass elevator that sits on the outside of the building.
Now, I’m not a lover of heights. I don’t exactly have a phobia, but my legs start to wobble and I cringe at the idea of looking over a sheer drop.
I gripped the railing tight as the elevator pulled us up into the sky with alarming speed, and, despite barely wanting to look out, I saw London turn into a gorgeous twinkling metropolis and remembered how lucky I was to live near a place like this.
Once I had my sweaty palms around a cocktail, I was able to take in the stunning full view of the city. And it was probably the best I’ve ever seen London look.
Check it out:
3. The Conversation
In our old restaurant, we used to have old conversations. We used to spend too much time reminiscing about the same memories from years before in the same place. Something about sharing a new experience and mixing it up made the conversation more alive.
We talked about the future more. We got excited together about everything we have coming up as a family. We looked forward, not back. We were present and had more to talk about because our senses weren’t dulled to our surroundings. We experienced new activities together and it made Christmas feel new and special again.
4. The Enjoyment of Pleasure Over Comfort
Most of all, doing something new allowed us to escape ‘The Tyranny Of The Familiar’.
All humans are comfort-seeking creatures. But as we spoke during the meal, we realised how much comfort had shackled us to a tradition that we were ready to let go.
By the end of dinner we were all thinking the same thing: “Why did it take us so long to do something different?”
We realised how we had clung to that tradition, imagining that there was something sacred about repeating the exact same thing every December 23rd. And yet, I remember my Dad saying: “I’ve been wanting to try somewhere else on this day for the last couple of years. It’s nice not to be bound by a tradition just for the sake of it.”
I wondered how many people bind themselves to routines and traditions that give them comfort at the expense of new experiences. Traditions are warm and can give you a feeling of safety. But sometimes they come at too great a cost. Too often a tradition gets exhausted and outlives its original purpose.
I promised myself last night that from now on I would pay attention next year to the ways I might be limiting myself from new experiences simply because of the ‘Tyranny Of The Familiar’.
At the end of our meal, as we sipped our ice-cold espresso martinis, Matt put down his glass and said: “This was an incredible, perfect day. Let’s not feel the need to do it again next year.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Whatever your holiday traditions, allow me to sign-off before sitting down this December 24th to wrap presents, eat chocolate, and enjoy my annual viewing of The Muppets Christmas Carol (a tradition which thankfully never gets old). I wish you the happiest of Christmases, Hanukkahs, and any other winter festivals you may be enjoying with your family this December. Here’s to making those who love us the most feel the most loved.
* * * * * * * * * * * *