There are lots of ways of looking at Tradition
Lots of traditions are just ways of coping with life that made sense at one time, but may no longer do so. They may be based on old ways of doing things, and old concepts that really could be changed, but they are so ingrained in us that we just do it because we always do it.
If we look at the traditions that have come to surround things like the Christmas celebration, it sometimes seems that there are a strict set of rules that we have to comply with. For many people, it is no longer about giving thanks or the enjoyment of family and friends, and certainly has no religious significance. The season is more about the need to do all the “traditional” things, whether they make us happy or not.
And yet all these things that we stress about became traditional because they once had a meaning. It was a time for celebration, a time when we could look forward to being with our family for a few short hours, and a time when we could center ourselves. We can sometimes be so caught up in the process, so intent on making it “perfect”, that we lose sight of the real purpose of the tradition.
And that, somehow, brings me round to the good side of tradition. Because when we observe a tradition in the right spirit, we not only honor the tradition, but we respect ourselves.
When we use a traditional time of celebration to celebrate, or a traditional time of reflection to reflect on our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn.
There is a difference between following the letter of a tradition, and following the spirit that created the tradition.
Maybe one day, someone in a city started doing something that worked for them. Others followed, and soon a tradition was born. Over time the tradition was refined by each new generation, and came to be seen as a rule in that city, a way of doing it that was the only approach that was allowed.
Coming upon this tradition as a stranger, we may be tempted to think that it is irrelevant, maybe even harmful. And it may be so – it could be that time has distorted the original reason for the tradition, and it is now time for a radical change.
But it may also be that we come with our own preconceived ideas, and that their traditional way of proceeding is not only OK, but even better than we had done before.
It is easy to both protect traditions too staunchly; it is also easy to reject them too easily.
As in many parts of life, the key is to find the balance.