I always found America's reverence to tradition, whether it be in dining habits, clothing, holiday agendas or operating principles, somewhat puzzling.

Keep in mind that this is from someone, who once past the age of 11, never held any particular fondness for Christmas or even Thanksgiving.

I always viewed that holiday quinella as an excuse to overeat and overspend, if not necessarily in that order. As a result, my waistline and checking account throughout November and December undoubtedly travel in opposite directions.

When I casually mentioned to my wife that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to drive 30 miles in last week’s Northeast blizzard to my sister-in-law’s for Christmas dinner, I was met by a piercing stare matched only by Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."

Safe to say, she’s the traditionalist in the family.

Nevertheless, traditions no matter how august, always take a back seat to the bottom line.

Case in point. McDonald’s Corp. one of America’s more traditional companies, built on the premise of getting the same product made the same way at any of its units around the globe, announced last week it was reformulating its traditional burger seasonings and sandwich buns — its most radical change in years.

Was this done as a result of painstaking research and customer feedback?

Nope, McDonald’s is expecting to post its first-ever-quarterly loss going back to a time when a gent named Ray Kroc ran the joint. Funny how a negative EPS can shatter tradition.

Few professions have stubbornly clung to tradition like accountants.

For instance, the "century-old tradition" of self-regulation was until one year ago, held in similar esteem to philosophies found in the Federalist Papers. Yet with each billion-dollar accounting implosion, the reiteration of the profession’s 10-decade "success" of self-regulation began sounding like a bad mantra from an infomercial.

Popiel’s pocket fisherman anyone?

That is, until massive numbers of investors began losing money, if not their life savings and pensions, in the wake of gargantuan accounting scandals. Suddenly it became painfully obvious that the profession’s deployment of intramural policing was like asking Laurel and Hardy to guard the Hope Diamond.

And thus, we have Sarbanes-Oxley for 2003, a tradition-killer if there ever was one. But the alternative was to do nothing and the profession by, ahem, tradition, had become frighteningly adept at doing just that.

So as we bid adieu to one of the more difficult years in memory for the profession, I have no doubt each CPA will have his or her own wish list for 2003, which promises to be interesting and dare I say it? Un-traditional.

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year.

Ugh, another tradition.

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