Why build traditions?
The word ‘tradition’ or ‘traditional’ have almost become dirty words in our current society. We believe that for someone to be traditional, they are not embracing change or retaining a conservative view on life. However, establishing traditions do not have to be outdated remnants of the past, or irrelevant mementos. Creating traditions and building celebrations into our lives provides a sense of purpose, rhythm and excitement.
Yesterday I wrote about building happy families, schools, groups and communities. There were three features that psychologist Jenny Fox Eades stated are essential; telling stories, building traditions and celebrations and recognizing and reinforcing the strengths in others.
As I’ve thought about what traditions I have in my life, I realize that I have very few traditions I follow or events that I celebrate. My life is run and ruled by deadlines, but these are not then rewarded with celebrations; instead the next deadline is provided or set. I’m not proud of this, but how do you build traditions on your own?
When I look back at my childhood some of my favourite memories, I recognize now were family traditions. There were two family traditions that look back upon with particular fondness and now recognize just how unique these were. An important tradition in my family revolved around Easter. I have no idea how or why this tradition began. But it occurred as far back as I can remember.
Every Easter Sunday we would have to hunt for our Easter present and chocolate. Now many people have an Easter egg hunt, you say, but this was no ordinary hunt. My Dad would write a poem for each child in the family, specific to their age and comprehension capacity, and then using the clue within the poem, we would have to go and find the Easter present. I grew up with six siblings and then there were always a few extras that would be around at Easter too. Dad’s poems were not short, they were specific to whatever we were focused on at that point in our life and when he was trying to create more difficult ones as I got older we would have research a passage for additional clues.
It was such an exciting hunt. Everyone would be trying to work out the clues with you, no one would dare to give it away, but invariably one of the kids would get desperate and try to help. I remember some of my siblings as young as three listening to their poem and working out where to find their Easter eggs. Traditions like this one, I’ve discovered, are unique. As we got older we used to write Dad a poem to find his Easter present too, and the thrill of composing a poem that could stump him, even for a minute was my ultimate goal. And a tradition like this has long-term impacts. I don’t think any one of my brothers and sisters found poetry “scary” at school, because seriously wouldn’t we be getting Easter eggs if we ‘solved’ the poetry?
Another tradition was every January spending the three weeks before school went back at our Nanna and Grandpop’s house at the beach. Those weeks of living at the beach each year are some of my fondest memories. And the bonds formed with our grandparents eternal. Knowing every bush track to the beach, where to avoid the beach rips, how to pedal a bike to the corner shop for Dad’s paper the fastest and watching our grandparent’s friends playing bowls from the verandah have become our folk lore.
So how do we build traditions into our lives and allow our lives to be moved by the rhythm of celebration and not stress? Well I believe firstly traditions and celebrations need to a priority. At the beginning of the year, plan these into the calendar, have everything else revolve around these. Choose what is going to be given value in your/my life? Are the traditions going to be family occasions, are they going to be national celebrations that we give a unique twist too or are they going to be personal celebrations that reflect a satisfaction with life? Secondly, traditions build unity, a sense of belonging and give a purpose to occasion and the passage of time. And finally, traditions provide stories to tell for a long time to come. When the next person joins the family group or the class or the team, they can learn the traditions, have others be excited to share their traditions with them.