Why Can’t We Get Along? Punch Drunk or Just Punch It Out?

A New Holiday Tradition?

Getting along

Why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t we set aside our differences and let bygones be bygones? It’s a common enough lament in families, politics, religion, and life.

While we all want to get along, it is admittedly tough to do. Yet, in Peru, they’ve got a system — a Christmas tradition, in fact — where they do just that.

The tradition is called Takanakuy which means “when the blood is boiling.” The tradition offers people in the small community of Chumbivilcas a chance to settle disputes through good old-fashioned fist-a-cuffs.

A Unique Way to Get Along

Takanakuy is also about family honor and distrust in the judiciary system. Many in the close-knit community view it as the only fair way to settle problems and move on peacefully into the New Year.

Each December 25th, participants (men, women, and sometimes children) gather in the local bullring for the fighting, where local authorities serve as referees.

Before a fight, combatants hug each other. Men mostly stick to punching. Women apparently do a lot of kicking. If an opponent is on the ground, fighters are not allowed to strike. If they do, referees can whip them. While the fighting is fierce, few injuries occur.

A New Holiday Tradition?

Now, imagine if we brought this holiday tradition to America. Picture relatives, neighbors, or colleagues duking it out. No long-standing feuds. No short-term slights. And no simmering disputes. How simple life would be!

But, boring too. Personally, I think nothing beats a family fight to get the digestive juices flowing after a big holiday meal!

Sadly, nowadays, Takanakuy wouldn’t work at our house. Too many of my relatives have passed to worry about potential knock-down, bare-knuckle, or white-gloved brawl.

Ah, the Good Old Day!

I admit to longing for the old days of large gatherings, wondering if Cousin X or Uncle Z would spark a brouhaha with an outrageous statement about a long-ago dispute or an outrageous political view.

It used to be a standing Thanksgiving tradition that by the time my sister-in-law Sandy’s unbeatable lemon meringue pie was served, Uncle Z had been thrown out the door for a racist statement. Now both relatives are gone. I miss Sandy — and that yummy pie — and the hours of haranguing and harrumphing that followed the slamming of that front door.

For her part, my mother had a fiery Hungarian temper, and there was no telling who might be the target of her wrath.

But it was equally true that she was the hostess with the most-est, who along with my father, held the family — and a multitude of our friends — together through holidays (and weekday and weekends.) They did this with fantastic food, love and laughter, music, and countless reckless acts of generosity even when money was tight.

I’ve Changed

Since learning about Takanakuy, I’ve tried to recall who I ever was mad enough to want to duke it out with. I haven’t been able to think of anyone. I’m not saying there wasn’t anyone. I’m sure there was. But now that I’m older, I’m much more mellow. More willing to let slights — even serious ones — pass.

In looking back, the only people I truly “hated” besides the historically obvious ones, like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot — meaning the personal meanies in my life — were people I also felt sorry for. They were hateful, but also pathetic. I didn’t hate them the less for their problems. Yet, because I knew “their backstories,” I understood the context for their nasty actions and, with time, — I could (sort of) shrug off the pain and anger I felt. I wasn’t a saint. I did have my mother’s hot Hungarian temper, after all.

The Jewish religion makes a conscious effort of reflection and seeking forgiveness at the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We don’t punch it out. We pray it out!

Get Along or Get Pie

Still, I admit, the idea of seeing my late sister-in-law Sandy duked it out with that racist relative of mine a la the Takanakuy way does sound satisfying — almost as good as her lemon meringue pie!

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