“You can do what you want”: transplantism instead of tradition and friends instead of family.

The author of the blog Face to Face sometimes writes about the social trend he calls transplantism, which refers to people who migrate in adulthood to a different state from where they were born and grew up.  It seems to mean not just moving, but moving in order to satisfy some aspect of status-striving. He outlines three types of status-striving: career, lifestyle, and persona.

He has a number of very interesting posts on this subject, but one caught my eye on Thanksgiving evening, as I was relaxing with a cup of coffee just before we left to go out of town overnight, Transplant-ism Breaking Down Large Family Reunions on Thanksgiving.
Read the whole post (it’s brief), but I’ve picked out a quote that I found interesting:

“My memories of Thanksgiving in the ’80s still included most of the extended family, aside from an uncle and his wife who moved Out West awhile ago (my cousins through them were absent, too). For those of my mother’s siblings who stayed in the general region, it was common to see all the aunts and uncles, as well as the cousins, and of course the grandparents on that side. But those get-togethers involved one-way travel times of at most three hours by car for all involved, and usually under two hours. You could travel there and back in the same day, so nobody needed to put you up.

Contrast with today, where transplants spend seven or eight hours door-to-door, one-way, and will have to be put up for one or more nights.

There’s another way in which the lifestyle strivers seem to be making things worse. Since they’re foodies, meals are a fashion contest, and fashion corrodes tradition. So why would a foodie want to trek all the way back to family, just to have the same old things for Thanksgiving? They would rather spend Thanksgiving alone and pick up a pre-made dinner from Whole Foods, as long as they put sriracha in the stuffing. That’s something you could post to Facebook for status points — not whatever your non-foodie parents would have prepared.”

I found it interesting because this is a subject I’ve written about a bit myself*.  But I didn’t realize how bad the whole “foodie” and “friends instead of family” thing had gotten, especially among Gen Y and millennials. I even wondered if maybe he was exaggerating a little bit.

We got into the car and when we hit the highway, I settled back and decided to read the news on NPR on my phone.  This was literally the headline article:

How to Put Real Giving into the Friendsgiving Feast:

“Culturally, we’ve seen the rise of Friendsgiving, as young professionals take the opportunity to create the Thanksgiving they want with their friends,” says Clay Dunn, chief communications officer for Share Our Strength, a hunger nonprofit. “You can avoid your Aunt Ina’s terrible cranberry sauce. You can do what you want.”

And as long as you’re reinventing traditions, he says, why not put more emphasis on the “giving” in your feast? That’s the idea that Share Our Strength is pushing this year. It’s asking people to leverage their holiday goodwill by turning their friendly gatherings into fundraising opportunities to fight childhood hunger.

[…] So if the Friendsgiving fundraiser piques your interest, there are plenty of places to look for tips on planning the feast, like here and here. Share Our Strength has resources, including templates for table name cards and a Pinterest board for cooking and decorating inspiration, too.

[…] And if the do-good feeling isn’t enough to motivate you, Dunn says there are prizes. The top fundraiser will get to tour the official Food Network kitchens in New York.

I just had to laugh at how well the guy from Face to Face had described this.  Hey, don’t like the boring cranberry sauce that’s going to be served at your family’s?  Then don’t even bother with that multi-state drive home to see them.  Do what you want, but whatever you do, make sure to earn status points by creating fancy table name cards and signaling how charitable you are by making it a fundraiser for some charity no one’s ever heard.  Of course, there might be a little somethin’ in it for you, you Foodie, you!  How many of your friends have gotten to tour the Food Network kitchens, I ask you!

The sad thing is that these young people are chasing after the lie of modernity that blood is no thicker than water.  It’s not really about with whom you ate Thanksgiving dinner this year so much as it is about the whole ethos of the age, the disconnectedness, rootlessness, and emptiness of individualism (“You can do what you want!”) in place of family, faith, and tradition.

*Here are a few of my posts that are related to this subject:

Christmas: a time to remember the Nativity and celebrate our traditions.

Let’s start with a bit of (kind of serious) humor, shall we?

Brad Stine: “I remember when people said things like, ‘Merry Christmas’ to each other. EVERYBODY said, ‘Merry Christmas! Hey, Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Lohenstein. Do you know why? Because it wasn’t about a religion, it was about something as a culture that we thought was so valuable, even if I disagreed with the religion behind it, because it was good for ALL of us instead of just me.

But what do people say now? ‘Happy Holidays.’ ‘See, I just say, “Happy Holidays,” because I don’t want to say, “Merry Christmas,” because you don’t believe in Christmas, and I don’t want to offend you, and…*chipmunk noises*'”

Oh, yes, we want to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ because we don’t leave anybody out. Really? How come there’s a ton of holidays in February – nobody says, ‘Happy Holidays’ in February, do they? They say what it is, ‘Happy Valentines’ – OOOO, do you believe in love?

But nobody wants to say, ‘Christmas’! Everything else but ‘Christmas’. Why? I know why. You do, too. It’s because it’s got ‘Christ’ in it, and after 2,000 years He’s still intimidating people. You see, when a religious person says, ‘I am the way,’ people don’t want to hear it. They don’t!

I say you gotta say, ‘Merry Christmas’ because it IS! If you don’t believe in it, fine. But I’ve got a flash for you: Christianity happens to be the religious heritage of my country whether you like it or not…

So if you’re not a Christian, or you don’t like it, and you don’t want Christmas celebrated, God bless you! But let me tell you something: if you think you’re gonna stop me from saying it because it offends you, hey, I’ve got a flash for you: PUT A HELMET ON! It’s my country, too!”

Listening to the choir sing We Three Kings, tears welled up in my eyes and began to overflow. I love Christmas, with the colored lights and shiny ornaments and wrapped gifts, the celebrations and get-togethers and baking marathons, but one of my most favorite parts of Christmas is the music.

Christmas music has always been a tie that binds our people together; nearly everyone knows the lyrics to the traditional carols and songs and can sing them with a bit of nostalgia. I love that sense of shared tradition and culture and was reminded of it this past Monday when our family attended Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village, as a large group of strangers squeezed together in a horse drawn wagon and sang Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Jingle Bells; later everyone assembled outside the town hall where a small choir led us all in Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, The First Noel, and Joy to the World while fireworks exploded overhead.

My husband and I were just discussing how when we were children, our schools always put on an annual Christmas concert – not a “holiday” concert, mind you, but a Christmas concert. Phil told me that every grade in his school in Dearborn tried to sing their best on The Little Drummer Boy because his principal had once told them that it was his favorite Christmas song. When I was in high school, our ambitious choir director taught us to sing The Hallelujah Chorus and we performed it at Holy Family Catholic Church because our school had no auditorium. The church was lit with candles and filled with wreaths and poinsettias and looked simply magical and mystical, as a church should.

Even if they don’t perform in churches, we have lost something of value in our culture by allowing atheists and Muslim immigrants to say that we cannot have school children learn and sing the traditional Christmas songs. No one is forced to believe or accept anything and could simply view the songs as interesting historical and cultural artifacts if they don’t like the Christian themes in them.  Rather than enriching us, “diversity” in this way has made us poorer, robbing us of our traditions and culture and turning Christmas into nothing but mindless consumerism and glitz, devoid of our shared cultural heritage.

I don’t oppose gift-giving and Christmas glitziness – in fact I rather enjoy those parts of Christmas – but it is important to realize that those parts are just like icing on a cake. Without the cake, all you have is enjoyable but meaningless fluff that leaves you feeling vaguely unfulfilled. The truly meaningful parts of Christmas that will feed your heart and soul are the celebration of the story of Jesus’ birth (and even if you aren’t a Christian, it is a lovely story, but I must remind you that it is in fact actually a true story) and the celebration of shared cultural and family traditions.

Merry Christmas!