In an ever-changing world, traditions bring a sense of stability and continuation. We need our traditions and they are emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy for us.
‘Tradition’ comes from the Latin trader – to hand over. A tradition is handed down from one generation to the next, creating a rhythm and certainty, within a family, or within a society.
There are different traditions:
There are the big traditions, followed by a large group of people. For example, naming a child with letters and not numbers is a long-time tradition. Theoretically, you could name a child 460 or BR2, but we don’t do it or it is very unusual, and sometimes it is even forbidden by law. BRii, then…
Having a dessert after the main course is another one. Why not keep space for the main course, instead of the dessert? I would love that tradition better :P
Then, there are the seasonal traditions, the one that happens at a specific time of the year. The December festivities. Or another example, having 2-month school holidays in summer. Why not in Spring? Do children still go help their parents at the farm for the harvest in the summer? Not really, but we keep this tradition because we cannot see another way. Yet.
And then, there are the family traditions, the traditions that we only do within a family. A special meal, a special cake, a special game, a special location that is dear to a family.
When I asked last week, what your favourite family tradition during the December festivities was, the answers were:
- “watching It’s a Wonderful Life”, Jack
- “Homemade Cinnamon rolls with my daughter on Christmas morning every year [for 52 years]”, - Ann (I got her recipe, and I am definitely going to try)
- “Watching Die Hard on Christmas Eve”, - Joy
“Going to the tree farm to pick our tree still in the ground, put ribbon on it. It is being cut in front of us. Great view over Dublin. […]” - Gwen
According to the sociologist, Edward Shils, a minimum of two transmissions over three generations is required for an act or belief to be deemed traditional.
But, within a family, a tradition can be felt already within one generation. A special cake you make on a specific day. You did it once. And since, you have repeated it over and over again. The children make crêpes on the last Sunday of the month, so the parents can sit and relax. The walk along the canal on summer nights. Watching Downton Abbey every time you go visit your aunt. Etc, etc.
As someone who has moved a lot and lived in different places, I have come across various country-specific traditions. I have adopted some of them or part of them. I miss my Pepernoten (Dutch spice biscuits, especially the chocolate ones) and the Oliebollen, all suddenly appearing in November everywhere in the Netherlands. Food traditions are my favourite… :P
The ones I connect less to are the ‘traditions’ imposed by heavy marketing, basically transmitted by businesses drive, not by the previous generation. Can it actually be called a tradition then? For example, I do not connect to Halloween. In France, where I come from, Halloween didn’t exist, before it was introduced between 2000 and 2010.
The tradition I know is to bring chrysanthemum flowers to our loved ones’ graves. Nothing about ghosts and costumes, and door-to-door candy offerings. In the 2000s, when I was already in my 20s, heavy marketing tried to bring Halloween to France. October was a month that wasn’t good for business. They either had to bring Christmas earlier or invent a new celebration.
It brings a completely different atmosphere and meaning to a celebration. Did it stick? Not much. Do parents of my generation do it? A few, because the kids see the ads on TV and want to do it. Is it a big thing? Not really. Will it become a real tradition within 2-3 generations in France? Maybe.
Memories will have been built and told as stories, the ‘I remember when…’ stories, the ‘when I was young…’ stories, and repeating little things that you were doing with your family and friends on this particular day and repeat them with the other generations. And little by little, it will stick and become a real tradition handed over by the previous generation, but not by marketing.
The best traditions are about the little things, the memories, the moments that we will remember, that everybody can enjoy.
It is the small tradition that we remember fondly the most. It is not about the price of the gift you got, it is about the food you cooked together, the meal you shared, the laughs, the cake that the family bake every year for your birthday, the cheesy movies you watch during the holidays with your sister, the special bonds, the sense of belonging.
It is always the small things.
Life is simpler and comforter, when joyful things can be repeated without too much thinking. Always the same every week, every month, every year. Of course, every time, they slightly change imperceptibly, but not in a way that becomes a shock for the mind.
It gives a sense of stability and predictability.
Our mind can relax, be mindful, breathe a little.
So be mindful, don’t stress out and hand it over to the next generation (if they can also cook for you, that’s even better lol), and enjoy it.