In the first half of the fourth chapter of “How Lovely Are Thy Branches,” Filif learns of a holiday tradition. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
If there is no dramatic conflict in the remainder of this short story, I already know I’m going to be fine with this. I don’t often get to read stuff that’s more “slice of life” styled anyway, but I find myself fascinated by what is going on. While there’s been a decent amount of discussion around the different Christmas traditions that exist, all of this is new to Filif, and it’s so rewarding to get to watch someone experience a holiday for the first time.
I’m interested in the idea of how traditions form. For example, it’s only been in the last decade that my family decided to go to the movies on Christmas day if we were all together, but where did that come from? Why did we start it? Why is that such a common thing for other American families to do as well? What about the foods we eat? I know where some of that comes from, but what’s considered “traditional” holiday food varies from person to person. Like, I still associate tamales with Christmas and I can’t help it. (And there’s a part of me that thinks it would have been cool if Kit’s family had something like this in their yearly traditions, though I wonder if this is all meant to be very suburban.) I also get very excited about certain holiday flavors and spices because YES. Give me ALL of the nutmeg. Well, maybe not all of it, since it’s apparently quite toxic??? THE THINGS YOU LEARN.
But even if things deviate between different humans, they are drastically different for someone like Filif, who is experiencing multiple things for the very first time while in the Rodriguez house. It’s not just the tree decoration, which he clearly loves. There’s the food. The songs. The conversation. The movies! And these things are all having a dialogue with one another, too, and that’s something Filif is able to pick up on. Some of the food is in the movies and the songs. A Christmas Carol has been remixed and re-thought countless times, and each interpretation reflects the time period it was made in and the person who made it. Then you can add in the myth of Santa Claus, or the influence of Christian thought, or the prevalence of pagan and pseudo-pagan rituals, and… well, you get the point. The holidays here in the States might have trends and tradition that stretch across cultures and boundaries, but they’re also a fluid, living thing, something that changes frequently and will continue to change in the future.
All this said: I really want to know what the Outlier is. Filif has his own holiday tradition!!! And it sounds real strange, which is even better.
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