From holiday to day-to-day

Tradition is a part of life

Easter approaches. Wicker baskets wait to be lined with plastic grass. Soon they will be filled with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps.

Tradition is a part of life

Easter approaches. Wicker baskets wait to be lined with plastic grass. Soon they will be filled with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps.

Some might prepare a meal of roasted ham and various sides, while others will endure the vinegary scent of pastel dyes to color Easter eggs. For some, Easter carries religious significance; for others it is a day of candy and scavenger hunts.

Regardless of how one sees Easter, it is a holiday steeped heavily in traditions. And whether for holidays or the day-to-day, traditions play a huge role in keeping us connected to our families after we’ve spread our wings and flown the coop.

Traditions gathered from family practices tie us to where we came from. They allow each of us to celebrate the past and embrace our individual heritages. As young adults, we have a lot of power in the continuation of family and cultural traditions. We also have a responsibility to decide which traditions to keep alive for future generations and which to let die out for the betterment of a harmonious society.

But how do we determine what our traditions are? Beyond that, how do we personally decide which traditions we should continue?

In order for a tradition to be positively worthy of continuation, it must meet certain criteria. Firstly, it should make sense to you. Generally speaking, if you don’t know why you’re doing something, you should stop doing it.

To me, when it comes to modernly irrelevant “big picture” traditions like the U.S. political system, organized religion or institutional education, traditions function more like forced obligations than cherished customs. These are things which linger past their time because people are too afraid to change or question them. Otherwise they provide no positive incentive for their perpetuation.

So, for me, they do not make sense.

These traditions historically arise as a means of squashing other customs. Therefore, they tend to stifle individuality and cultivate a culture of conformity, which is conducive to mass control. Big picture traditions are constantly reinforced, becoming internalized with a sense of authority. This makes it difficult for many people to question such traditions.

It is always important to understand why you are participating in any practice, regardless of what it is. Is it because my parents did it? Is it because all of my neighbors, classmates or co-workers do it?

For me, it is important to find opportunities which support a humanistic progression of big picture traditions and to avoid participation in stagnant, overbearing customs, if possible. Understand it is hard to change these traditions because they require a lot of cooperation and time.

People often get hung up on fighting causes which seek to alter big picture traditions quickly and forcefully. However, more manageable traditions occur on a personal basis, which affect us individually in our day-to-day lives. Oftentimes we ignore the impact of everyday traditions, which is why the second criterion for a positive tradition is one which provides mindfulness.

Day-to-day traditions are often overlooked as simple, innocuous tasks that have little bearing on the outcomes of our lives. Some might not even think of daily practices as “traditions,” yet customs surrounding the daily individual consumption of food, energy and commodities have more influence than we may realize.

By applying an attitude of attentive concern to the toil of our daily lives, we produce customs that enrich practitioners by providing introspection and global consideration in common practices.

American habits of eating, driving, shopping, etc. have all been honed over generations through an attitude of thoughtless self-satisfaction. The current result is an overblown sense of entitlement to consumer goods which is now engrained into the daily customs and practices of the American people.

Providing mindfulness in daily traditions, especially those concerning food, could foster in Americans a renewed sense of self-sustainability. In addition, it might provide an increased consideration toward the environmental impact of agriculture.

Increased mindfulness toward daily customs could be a catalyst for big picture change by transforming the traditional American attitude of consumerism. Not to say that people would stop buying consumer goods, but that they would only consume what they’ve mindfully determined to be good for them.

People should be encouraged to explore those things which make them happy. However, part of the responsibility of managing traditions is thinking carefully about the impact of your actions. Without mindfulness, the tradition begins to control the society, instead of the other way around.

Recognizing that there is a level of control is important for understanding the final criterion of a positive tradition, which is adaptability. If a tradition does not have the capacity to adhere to the generally accepted societal tenets of a given time, then it should be abolished.

An example would be the traditional understanding of the institution of marriage.

Traditionally, marriage in the U.S. is between a man and a woman. However, traditional marriages had nothing to do with love and were merely a legal change in ownership of a woman from her father to her husband. To invoke the traditional aspect of marriage is anachronistic in a time when marriage has more to do with emotions than legality.

Because marriage in modern America is an institution of love, not ownership, the “traditional” view of marriage is not adapted to suit contemporary purposes. To discriminate against any two consenting adults by disallowing them to marry does not correlate to the generally held modern view that every American is literally equal in rights.

So traditional marriage is not adaptable and should be abolished.

The goal of our traditions should be to enlighten, to celebrate our history and to prepare ourselves for the future. As technology makes our world a smaller place, it seems more important than ever to focus our attitudes on those ties which unite us as a global people.

Remember we are only ever moving forward in time, constantly shaping our reality with our intentions. Our traditions should reflect that ideal.