Things change over time, even traditions. At some point, every tradition had a reason for its existence. Sometimes, however, people forget the reason; or their circumstances change, and the original reason goes away. Then, there can be confusion or disagreement. I'm sure we can all think of many holiday traditions this time of year. Yet those traditions vary from region to region, community to community, and even family to family. So what are your cherished traditions, and why are they traditions?
Often people answer this question by saying, "It's the way we've always done it." If a tradition still works well, and people find it meaningful, that may be a good reason for continuing it. However, many traditions get confused and become something they were never intended to be.
Take the Twelve Days of Christmas, for instance. If you listen to television and radio commercials, you might think they're the 12 days BEFORE Christmas, when you shop like crazy. If you talk to someone familiar with the Christian liturgical calendar, however, you will probably realize that the evening of January 5th is called "Twelfth Night" for a reason.
The result is that some people are finished with Christmas as soon as the presents are opened and the holiday meal is served. They take down their Christmas trees and decorations no later than New Year’s Day. Other people don’t end their celebration of Christmas until another celebration occurs on the night of January 5th.
So who is right? Personally, I prefer to ask which tradition is more meaningful for me and serves me best. If it's a toss-up, then perhaps I need to rethink the tradition and come up with a new one.
That's why I've decided to forgo black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year's Day. Neither of these traditions has served me any better than superstitiously throwing a pinch of salt over my shoulder. I haven't come up with a new tradition yet, but perhaps I don't even need one. Or maybe I'll celebrate the New Year in the spring rather than on January 1st. I've still got a week to decide.
- Do you ever stop to think about why you follow tradition?
- Are your traditions meaningful for you?
- Have they simply become obligations?
- Which ones need to change?