Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Nature of Traditions

If you have already been to The Things I Love, then you may have already read this post. I post it here anyhow for those who may not read that blog as well as for myself... :o Enjoy! ;)

Some may describe a "tradition" as being a custom, ritual, practice, habit; or simply a set of "norm's" as to the way a person or group of people live their lives or celebrate events...

I say, traditions are the backbone of our very existence – they give us a sense of character, strength, purpose, identity, unity, belonging..., and create a sense of “coming home” in a way that nothing else can… Traditions set communities apart from each other. In Fiddler on the Roof the effects of traditions were stated like this...

"Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything... How to sleep, how to eat... how to work... how to wear our clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, 'How did this tradition get started?' I'll tell you!... I don't know. But it's a tradition... and because of our traditions... Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

I have two favorite lines from this quote. One is this... "Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years."

I have found this to be true in our home. My husband and I have our family traditions on a printed schedule hanging on a wall in our home. Why? Because we have noticed that when we lose sight of our traditions - we also lose sight of our goals and life purpose... and the blessings of living a balanced life come to an end. Because we want much balance and happiness for our family, we expect much of our family in the way of righteous traditions...

The second line I love in the above quote is this... "and because of our traditions... Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

The traditions in our home help our family to receive the blessings of living a Christ Centered life, because that is the main purpose of most of our traditions... to ensure that we make time in our days and in our hearts, to live Christ centered lives. These traditions are simple things like going to church each Sunday... studying the scriptures daily, and kneeling together in a circle for family prayer each morning and night... Thankfully, these righteous traditions can help a child to know what is expected of him before he has grown in wisdom and insight to expect it of himself...

Now, because it is a holiday season, I wish to turn our thoughts now to holiday traditions...

When I was still very young, I believed that ALL holiday traditions held strong year after year, after year.... And not only that, it was the tradition that made the holiday, THE HOLIDAY! How could we possibly celebrate “that” holiday without “that” tradition?

You can probably guess how many traditions I had… That’s right, too many to count!...
(Although, these days life is simpler, and my traditions are fewer in number)

Back then... if a tradition lost its appeal to part of the group – oh what a tragic day it was! The holiday - was, after all, ruined by the lack of appeal to a once cherished tradition… almost like a thief in the night, some traditions loose popularity. Children grow out of childhood traditions by becoming teens, and spouses begin to ask questions like… “Are we the only ones in this town who still do this?”

Some of these traditions begin like a new romance… They seem so incredibly perfect, and you think the perfectness will last forever.

But newness doesn't stay new. The excitement of wondering anticipation wears off when you no longer wonder what something will be like. And even when you are excited, because you do know what something is like, and you liked it... the new enactment of an activity is NEVER exactly the same as it was the time before; that can be a disappointment when one assumes that enactments "can and absolutely 'should' be" the same!

And yet... traditions continue. What are the benefits of traditions, which are so compelling as to keep us "traditioning" despite the lack of predictability? There are many! Let me name just a few...

For those who do not expect exact replicas of a cherished experience, traditions offer bonds of strength and stability to a group like nothing else can. They give experiences to a group which are shared only by the group... this is sacred. Sharing activities with the same group of people, and looking forward to doing so with that same group of people - is a very powerful, unifying and bonding phenomenon... :) I suppose that is why traditions are so fervently shared among families; on some level, we all know we love each other MORE because of them...

And thankfully, we learn that SOME “traditions” don’t have to last for eternity to be of value, in the same way that “childhood play” is a blessing only during childhood, and “teen drama” may be unavoidable in the teens, but is gladly left behind in later years...

Another benefit is that while many traditions are created with a special purpose in mind, and these matter... What we make into a tradition isn't the only thing that matters - it's the fact that the tradition brings our minds back to the warm familiarity of the ones we love. I have worn a red shirt which says "I believe in Santa" since I was 17 years old. And yes... though Santa is clearly NOT the focus of the day or season, he did play a role in our family's past celebrations... after over two decades, I still have and wear that shirt. :) With this in mind, wearing my Santa shirt sometime during the holiday season became a very small and accidental tradition; but no matter what time of year I see that shirt, warm feelings associated with gathering around loved ones during the Christmas season flood over me. Wearing this shirt was clearly a seemingly inconsequential tradition that I had, for me...

"Fun" traditions are usually like that; we do the same things over and over again because WE treasured the experience; that is how traditions are made! And it doesn't take long for this to happen. Take childhood, for example. A few short years in the life of a child can feel like the biggest MOST IMPORTANT segment in a child’s entire life; what we do only two or three times will often be seen in these fresh young impressionable minds as strong and sturdy traditions which have gone on for half if not most of their young lives! If you do it more than once, you better make it count; for you are probably creating a “tradition!”

Some traditions are also performed as an act of service FOR ANOTHER, like grandma or grandpa, for example. These "other individuals" have a seemingly sacred tradition... one that they are bursting at the seams to share with us... and which usually teach something important or special about the day being celebrated (along with adding immeasurably to their own sense of happiness and well being). Because we love them... we selflessly oblige. :) (And if we're lucky... we catch the vision and come to cherish the tradition, too. ;)
We all know parents who insist that their kids participate in such traditions. It is good for youth to learn to think of others and be willing to perform a ritual which is important to another. In our family we have a tradition in which we each trace our hands onto green construction paper. We then write one activity we want to do as a family during the Christmas season on each paper hand. Since there are 6 people in our family, the 12 hands make up our activities for the "Twelve Days of Christmas." Each day, our family does what ever was written on one of the hands, then we place the hand on the ring cut from a paper plate (or flip the hand over if we create it from the start with paperclips). By Christmas time, we have created a wreath of family unity and never ending love, by taking time each day to do something that is important to someone else in the family.

Traditions such as this one offer practice and opportunities to make time for the people we love and in perform some selfless giving... a character trait that blesses individuals and their families for generations to come. And isn't that what Christmas is about, really? Remembering our Savior Jesus Christ and all He does for us... then striving ourselves to be a little more loving and giving... like Him... Learning to think of others, do for others, give to others, and discover joy in doing it?

I believe that is what traditions are about remembering the purpose or significance of a day or holiday, building bonds of unity and love, AND making memories to last a lifetime. To me, traditions are just THAT SIMPLE, and simply that wonderful! :)

I hope that as we create traditions for Christmas, we are blessed with inspiration to create traditions which help us and our loved ones to remember the significance of the birth and life of Christ... I hope our traditions draw us nearer unto Him and help us to become more like Him (fine purposes indeed!); and that we build bonds of love and unity, and memories to last a lifetime!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Corine :D


  1. Did you see who won the giveaway on my blog!!

  2. Amen!

    Thanks for this blog post :)

  3. Look at you all Christmased up over here!! Thank you for your words of encouragement on my blog today. I needed it something bad. You'll be happy to know that the Nativities and cookie jar are up b/c you inspired me. Nice to meet you!


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