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The Importance and Beauty of Following Traditions

Updated on November 16, 2015
HealthbyMartha profile image

I'm a Certified Health Coach who wants to help you create the best balance of spiritual, physical and mental health that is possible.

What does Tradition Mean to You?

There are likely not many people who aren't familiar with some sort of tradition. It would seem that to grow up in any sort of a family is to experience some sort of common tradition that is shared by your family and passed on to you.

I know that I am blessed to still have many traditions that began in my family of origin when I was a child that I've been able to bring into my own family and share with my children. It is heartening to see how many of these traditions then are shared by my adult children with their own families.

With the Holiday season fast approaching I have been thinking quite a lot about tradition and what it means to me. What better time to explore the concept of traditions than at this time?

Whether you are young or older, you probably have many traditions and some have been a part of your life for so long, you probably have forgotten how they even began.

The beauty of tradition is that it keeps the loved ones and experiences of our past very much alive and it honors those who've come before us and perhaps are no longer with us on this earthly plane. By having traditions in place, we are able to keep our cultural identity intact and keep it from being lost in the rush of newness.

Our ancestors are honored by our keeping their traditions active and alive, and we are enriched by the act of continuing something meaningful and sharing it with new generations.

Tradition can be anything as simple as always eating dinner at 500 pm because that is what is normal to you or it can be that the first born child is the recipient of a full scholarship to school. Tradition can be anything that is considered the appropriate way of doing something and that is passed down from one generation to the next. Let's explore some common traditions and their meanings.

Holiday Traditions

When it comes to tradition, the Holiday's are steeped in it! Whether it's about when you have your dinner on the day of a holiday, or when you choose to open gifts, there are likely many traditions that got their start long before you were born.

For instance, in my family we were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and the rest we all opened together on Christmas morning. I had a dear friend, and they recognized the same tradition of opening one gift on Christmas eve; but in their family they gave the children a pair of new pajamas to be opened and worn on Christmas Eve. After my dear friend passed away, I wanted her daughters to experience the same tradition without interruption and I gave them each a pair of pajamas that year to be opened on Christmas Eve. While I knew that the tradition for them might change, I wanted to ease them into that transition.

My family always planned to have dinner at noon on the big Holiday; many other families have their meal in the middle of the afternoon or in the evening. Some families don't even have a family meal for the holiday.

My late husband had many traditions that were related to his being a Native American. I came to appreciate many of his family traditions and adopted some as my own. While my husband is deceased and doesn't have any idea that I'm still following traditions that he shared with me, it is meaningful to me to experience them all the same. It is my way of honoring the time we shared and it makes me feel closer to him and his family by experiencing traditions that are meaningful to them.

When we take part in a tradition that has its origins in decades, and generations before; perhaps even centuries; we are paying homage to these people who have gone before. It is a show of honor and respect to keep alive traditions that were brought to you from an earlier time. In this way, the loved ones that have gone before are still very much alive in our hearts and our memories.

Maybe that is the purpose of tradition? To keep people and practices alive in a world that is rapidly becoming so disposable! By that I mean, that we seem to live in a throw away world! Gone are the days of repair shops and shoe cobblers; now it's about buying things that we know won't last and just throwing them in the trash and starting over with ever new things when they grow old or fall apart. There was something lovely about having repair people who fixed our televisions, toasters and re-heeled our shoes. It's an industry that has few survivors left to keep it alive.

How much more important then does tradition become in this ever changing, throw away world!? If we lose tradition, we lose touch with our ancestors and our heritage and that is a loss we must not ever take lightly.

I prefer to carry tradition's that I have known and share them with my family and friends in the hopes of keeping some of them alive. By doing this, my parents and their parents live on always in my heart and memory and on the holidays while I may still miss their presence, they are never far away when we are enjoying a traditional food or practice.

Children are the Future so Share with them your Past

I think one of the most important roles of tradition is in sharing it with children. I feel that by sharing traditions that began many generations before is to give our children a well rounded experience. How else can a child understand the past and their own history unless we expose them to it?

This year my granddaughter is a toddler and though it was a real treat to celebrate her first Christmas last year as an infant, I'm much more excited to celebrate the holiday with her this year. I like that I can teach her about the Great Grandparents who passed away before she was ever born but teaching her traditions that got their start with them! What a beautiful way to see her develop and grow and create her own traditions one day by being exposed from an early age to the concept of traditions from the past?!

She is learning that her Grammy gives her and her parents and siblings all a Stocking stuffed each year. What she is also learning is that Grammy got this idea from her own mother and is sharing it now with not only her children, but her grandchildren. The beauty is in knowing that one day she too will be perhaps stuffing stockings just as her Grammy did for her.

It feels like a little bit of immortality to know that even after I've gone on from this earthly plane that my sweet grandchild will be remembering me and sharing my traditions with her own family.

And that is the crux of the use of tradition. Sharing the past with the present so that they can share it with the future. We honor the past by sharing it with our loved ones. And then we begin to create our very own traditions!

For me tradition's are a gift from the people of our past; a gift that we keep giving as we share with the people we love.

One of the best traditions I've experienced was that of going to see the Nutcracker Ballet every December with my Mother. We did this for maybe fifteen years, until her health made it impossible and then she passed away. This year, I am able to take this tradition and now share it with my adult daughter. We are going to go to see the Nutcracker Ballet this year together and hopefully it will be the beginning on an annual tradition. I can already feel my sweet mother in heaven smiling upon us knowing that we are not letting this beautiful tradition die. In fact, one day I hope that my daughter will be taking her daughter to the Nutcracker. And when they do go, they'll be remembering my Mother and me and keeping us alive in their hearts always.

Now what could be nicer than having a tradition that helps us remember our loved ones?! I can't think of much.

I wish you a coming holiday season that is steeped in a lot of loving traditions.

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    • HealthbyMartha profile image
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      Martha Montour 21 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Jody. I suppose that the Holiday's fast approaching have put me in a nostalgic mind, and of course missing those who've gone on before. Happy that it has touched you.

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      Jody 21 months ago

      With both of my parents, we as a family have kept them alive though all the traditions which we had growing up. We were just talking about this very subject with our daughter tonight. By remembering all these traditions like you said, we not only honor them, but a part of them will always live on. Thank you, this is a timely blog.

    • HealthbyMartha profile image
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      Martha Montour 21 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Bill for reading and then sharing with me your thoughts. I too find it tragic to consider a life devoid of any traditions, or without anyone with whom to share them. I too feel blessed to have those in my life to share and create new traditions with.

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      Bill 21 months ago

      This is a powerfully evocative description of tradition and its value. As I read through it, I thought about the traditions that I have inherited and passed on to my children. I also realized how many traditions I share with them and my grandchildren now that were not inherited but created in the process of living, loving, and sharing together. I am overwhelmingly gratified when I see my daughter and son emulating these traditions with their children.

      While reminiscing about traditions and the emotional feeling for them that you transmitted, I also contemplated the past that is lost. I fell into a nostalgic drift through memories of my youth and my family members who have been gone now for a long time. Maybe such reflexions will lead to remembering and resurrecting some traditions that have gone dormant over the years.

      Finally, I thought deeply about our fellow travelers in life who have few or maybe no traditions due to the circumstances of their childhood or tragedies of life itself. I was saddened to think of that situation and felt a real pain for them. It think that such individuals have been deprived of precious tradition experiences and the happy memories they can create.