Do you remember Sunday dinners with your family, the annual community fall fair, going to church, dressing up and heading out to trick or treat? How about believing in Santa Claus? These are all traditions from my past. Were they part of yours too?
Growing up, little events like these where what made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself. They gave my life structure and something to look forward to. I didn’t understand how these traditions came into being, or why my family embraced them, but I participated along with everyone else and felt safe in the familiar.
Society today is not as idyllic as the past I remember. The traditions of my youth no longer work for our modern society. Maybe it’s time to embrace new ones.
An inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.
On social media lately, there has been a lot of talk about how society is fracturing. People are worried for the environment, their communities, and their countries. Folks are loosing faith in the leadership of the world and are feeling dis-empowered as a result. Many feel like they are floundering on the rough seas of uncertainty with no safe harbour in sight.
But this malaise has deeper roots than the current climate we see ourselves in. We have become a society that has lost it’s traditions. Simple repetitive acts that ground us and unite us with familiar behaviours.
We are all connected. This is an immutable truth. Human are meant to congregate, share and connect. That is why our ancient ancestors formed tribes. We are stronger as a unit than as individuals. But in recent decades, the trend has been to stand alone. The “me generation” of the Baby Boomers and the “me, me, me” generation of the Millennials, have divided the population like no other generations before them. The drive to seek out our fortunes and fame, to be the best, to crush the competition, can not be done as a group. That would require sharing, and only one can rise to the top.
This trend has also left a lot of traditions in the dust. Family dinners are fond memories. Even if we do sit down together for a meal, are we connecting with each other or with our electronic devices?
Community events, are a thing of the past. We certainly don’t have time to volunteer to organise them anymore, that would take time away from our drive for the top. In fact, service groups have become a endangered species.
Even traditional holidays are feeling the pressure from our need to consume and conquer. They no longer resemble the simple customs they once were. Most holidays leave us stressed, exhausted and poorer. What once were joyous days to look forward to, have now become obligations to get the hell over with.
As a result, we have become a divided nation of individuals. Separated by the very thing that we are each striving to achieve – Individualism. Loneliness has become epidemic. We don’t even know how to reach out and connect to each other anymore and this self inflicted seclusion has bred anxiety and fear in our hearts and minds. The very emotions that those who are at the top, are using to create even more chaos in our lives.
So if you want to bring a little peace back into your life. If your soul is yearning for that calm, safe harbour to anchor into now and then, I’m going to suggest that you become a Tradition Keeper. Or to be more exact, a new Tradition Keeper.
Traditions are the glue that hold families, communities, and cultures together.
Repeated activities that bring meaning to our lives, shared experiences, common appreciations, this is what bind us together. This is what is needed to unite so many adrift individuals. We are a society that desperately needs to connect. But re-connecting to old traditions is not going to work. We broke away from them because they can no longer fulfill the needs of our ever changing society. We need to salvage what we can and then create new traditions that reflect our ever changing world.
Taking on the position of Tradition Keeper in the past fell to the elders of a community. These were the members of the clan that held the stories and rituals in their memories and then past them down to the next generation. That is how traditions were carried forward.
Growing up, grandma hosted Sunday dinners for a reason. That was her contribution to tradition, her special glue that was meant to keep the family together. She acted as a constant for the family bond. The annual all male fishing or hunting trip might have been another. Even aunt Ethel’s Jell-O salad, that nobody liked but everybody ate, at the family picnic created a yearly custom, rich with fond memories of whispered groans and cousins, united in gelatin disgust.
What traditions will work for your family now?
Do you have childhood memories of spaghetti dinners in the basement of your local church? Where you a Scout or a Girl Guide? Did your city host a Santa Claus parade or a annual festival unique to your community? Well some group or individual volunteered their precious time to create those events that gave you those experiences and your community was richer because of their efforts. And do you remember that it was at these community events that we got to chat and socialize and re-acquaint ourselves with people and neighbours who also participated? You can’t do that on Facebook folks.
Where can you get that sense of community now? Do you need to create a new tradition for your community? Will you invite your lonely neighbour to join in?
There is one area that tradition keeping has changed and it requires the committed attention of the new Tradition Keepers the most. As a global society, we can no longer keep cultural traditions as pure as they once were. Contrary to the emerging, and troubling rise of divisiveness in our societies, we are too inter-connected world wide to segregate ourselves into pockets of cultural traditions and beliefs anymore. It is time to form new traditions; new harmonic fusions that honour global unity. Together we are strong. Divided we will only continue to exist as individuals afloat on the rough seas of fear, anxiety and protectionism.
Will you encourage diversity? Can you learn to grow and change?
So I call upon you to take up the position of a new Tradition Keeper for your family and your community. Create practices that will bind all our tribes. Hold dear the traditions of your past but also start new, blended ones. It is time to make other, maybe even better traditions. Ones that reflect a new global community. Ones that will unite us once again while also honouring our need for individuality.
Pledge to contribute to your community, even if it is only to get out in it and participate regularly. Be part of the stickiness and together we can create a strong bond once again. One that anchors us all to a safe, calm harbour of togetherness.
Tradition Keepers think outside of themselves. They think “we” instead of “I”. Human beings are meant to bond. We are one, as a people, as a race, as a world. Let’s develop that thought as a new tradition for everyone and then pledge to pass it down to the generations to come. By doing that one act, you too will become a new Tradition Keeper. That little bit of glue helps us all re-build our fractured outlooks into a stronger, more stable world.
And that, is a tradition worth keeping.