What Traditions Do You Carry With You?

As we finish out the winter holidays and approach the New Year, I’ve been thinking a bit about traditions – those things we repeat at certain times and in a certain way because they offer us a sense of meaning. Such traditions may have been passed down from family or perhaps self-created, but regardless of their origin, they’ve taken root in our lives. 

I’d like to reflect, here, on the role of tradition in our lives and share a few of my own.

Traditions – The Past Informing the Present
Traditions are not mere shadows of the past; they are vibrant threads that help weave the tapestry of the present.  They bridge generations, whispering stories from grandparents’ lips to grandchildren’s ears. More than repetition, they are acts of creation, sculpting time into moments of shared laughter, quiet reverence, and secure connection. 

These rituals are anchors in life’s shifting stream, offering comfort and belonging. Yet, they are not static, they evolve as we do, their patterns echoing through the changing seasons of our lives. 

In the end, traditions are not about clinging to the past, but about carrying its embers forward, illuminating the path to a meaningful, connected present.

Weaving Meaning through Personal Traditions
Personal traditions are like wildflowers springing from unexpected places. We come to appreciate these blooms and nurture them finding not just comfort, but connection to the places and people that make us who we are.

Many of our traditions relate to holidays – the same foods, or music, or activities at the same time of the year. Other traditions may be practices handed down from our family, such as a particular way of celebrating a birthday, or a special place returned to every year on vacation.

Traditions don’t have to be old to have power and meaning. Most of us have created our traditions – our own way of doing something regularly that anchors us to reality through time.

At their core, personal traditions are acts of creation. They are our way of sculpting time, bending it to the rhythm of our hearts. We carve out moments, not on calendars, but within the fabric of our days. 

Sharing Personal Traditions
To help make the notion of tradition more concrete, let me share with you a few of my own personal traditions that have developed over the years.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a beloved Peanuts television special released in 1965. It was a memorable part of Halloween as a kid in New York City.

Fast forward to today. For the past twenty or so years, several adult friends and I have gathered on or around Halloween to watch Linus miss trick-or-treating while waiting for the Great Pumpkin. After the show, we enjoy a fall dinner with typical autumn foods. While it might seem silly to some, the adults look forward to Charlie Brown and Snoopy every year. 

Another personal tradition involves Thanksgiving. Around twenty years ago, I became friends with a few British people living here in West Michigan. Not having grown up with Thanksgiving, these UK folk came to love the holiday. 

Early on, they invited me to their Thanksgiving dinner along with several others. Over the years, that group has become like family and we just celebrated our nineteenth Thanksgiving together. 

While living in Ireland in the early 1990s, I came to appreciate the Irish celebration of Beltane – an ancient holiday occurring on May 1. The celebrations are about the emerging new life all around us in nature and the connected themes of love and creativity. 

Many other traditions enrich my life year in and year out. My mother’s recipe for pistachio cake, certain Christmas songs, and inviting friends over for dinner on St. Patrick’s Day are just a few. 

These traditions transcend mere repetition; they become living stories, evolving with us, whispering tales of who we are and where we come from.

Traditions Help Us Connect With Others
In our distracted world, amidst flashing screens and fleeting connections, traditions stand as bridges that join us with others. They bind us, not like chains or rope, but with threads of belonging, weaving tapestries of connection that transcend generations and cultures.

Think of family dinners that have joined us to present and past generations as we sat at the table together enjoying passed-on recipes and repeated family stories. Or reflect on how holidays celebrated with friends can lead to cherished customs, that act like time capsules, preserving memories and binding hearts across oceans and years. 

Much of our lives are punctuated by small traditions – singing Happy Birthday over a cake with candles, a backyard BBQ on the 4th of July, to toasting to the New Year come Midnight on December 31.  

Shared ways of marking time show up in our lives over and over again, dissolving differences, and reminding us that beneath the layers of differences lie the bonds of common ways, culture, and humanity.

Shared customs weave threads of belonging, weaving individuals into a collective tapestry of shared experiences. Collective rituals bind us to something larger than ourselves, reminding us that we are not isolated threads, but part of a vibrant, intricate fabric.

Traditions Enrich Our Lives
We’ve just come through a season marked by many traditions. For many of us, the past few weeks have been colored by lit candles, sparkling lights, decorated trees, the giving of presents, and large, traditional meals with friends and family. 

These, and other, traditions offer a welcome anchor in the ever-shifting tides of life. When the world feels tumultuous and uncertain, these familiar rituals provide a safe harbor. 

In essence, traditions are acts of remembrance, allowing us to carry the memories and whispers of the past into the present, connecting us to the people and places that shaped us.

In a world increasingly defined by digital connections and fleeting interactions, personal traditions remind us that meaning is not always found in the constant pursuit of novelty, but in the quiet hum of familiarity, in the stories woven into the fabric of our days. 

As we enter into a new year, I’d like to ask what traditions you’ll carry with you? What traditions do you cherish? Which ones are old and which are new?

Feel free to share in the comments section below those you find most meaningful.

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