Webster defines tradition as “the transmission of customs and beliefs from one generation to the next generation.”Traditions ground us. Teach us about our heritage. Give us connection to our past. Can be enriching. But can they be harmful? Is there value in questioning your traditions?
Spoiler alert: Traditions can be broken.
Can’t you just hear Tevye singing?
Some people scoff at traditions. They want to spread their wings and do their own thing – not be bound by the things everyone else has done. Break the mold. New. Fresh.
Great. Some traditions need to be broken.
Yet, if we’re honest, we all have them – good or bad.
- Pick up a cup of coffee at Starbucks each morning
- Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole at Thanksgiving
- Ham for Easter
- Going to Grandma’s house for Christmas
- Chocolate cake for your birthday
- Attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah or Tchaikovsky”s The Nutcracker between Thanksgiving and Christmas
- Making New Year’s Resolutions
- Eating oatmeal for breakfast every day
All of these can be traditions. I’m sure you can think of many more.
As we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, rich with traditions, it is a good time to evaluate what we do, many times without even thinking.
- Does the tradition create the family identity you desire? I believe traditions ground us. They create a link to our history for good. Let me give you an example. Each year at Christmas, our family exchanges gifts by giving a gift from under the tree to another person. We started this tradition to help us focus on the act of giving rather than receiving which allows us to live generosity in this moment.
- Does the tradition ground you? Many people pray before eating their meal. Why? Is it tradition or something more? At the very least, praying before a meal reminds us to be thankful for the provision of food. On a deeper level, it creates communication with our Creator for the basic needs of life, acknowledging His involvement in our daily lives. A tradition that creates gratefulness.
- Does the tradition enrich your life? There are traditions that enrich us by connecting us to our extended family and our history. Every time I can my Grandma’s relish, I’m connected to the other women in my family who’ve used the same recipe. I imagine Grandma stirring the simmering pot in a similar way and take time to thank God for this woman who positively impacted my life.
- Does the tradition exist simply because we’ve always done it this way? If so, maybe it’s time to break that tradition. The story is told of the young woman who cut off the ends of her roast before putting it in the pan to cook. She’d seen her mother do this, so followed suit. When the husband worked up the courage to question this, they talked to Grandma and found out she cut the ends off the roast so it would fit in her pan. What are you doing simply because Grandma’s pan is too small?
Some traditions are beneficial, some are not. Instead of blindly following all traditions or totally throwing them all out, find the traditions that enrich your life, that ground you, and that create the family identity you desire.
If your family traditions aren’t what you think they should be, create new ones. It’s a good thing.
What are your favorite traditions? Why? Leave a comment below.
Capture the extraordinary in the ordinary today.
My hubby and I have had some hard conversations about traditions since our family expanded to include our two boys. I think we made a bit of a mistake in the kid-free days of our early marriage, by catering to the tradition demands of both sides of our family. Then we had our first baby. And our second. And suddenly, certain traditions were not working for us any more. The holidays became stressful. I may or may not have uttered “I hat Christmas! I can’t wait for it to be over!” more than once. Something had to change! The lesson we learned is that traditions have to have room to grow and change with time. If things are too rigid, it can cease to be a source of joy and start becoming a source of contention. I don’t want my kids to grow up and get married and feel like they’re in a tug of war between us and their in-laws at the holidays. Life changes. So can traditions.
Well said. Good for you for adapting to your family’s needs.