Friday, April 10, 2009

what makes tradition

tra * di * tion

1 a: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)

2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction

One day, Sydney will recall that Good Friday means a quiet morning at home. Reading from God's Word. Shopping for Easter shoes with Grandma. Dyeing eggs with Mommy to hide for Sunday morning. Waiting for Daddy to be home from midday church, and going together to evening church.

One day, Sydney will know without being told that Easter means more than candy and Peeps and chocolate rabbits; and is even more than her beautiful basket with its personalized butterfly fabric liner.

One day, Sydney will hopefully think back fondly on moments with her parents and grandparents on special holy-days like these. Just as I recall handmade dollies from my Grandmother. And hunting for Easter baskets with my sister. And new dresses. And beautiful music at church. And singing in the school chorus for those daybreak services. Delicious suppers prepared by my Dad. Warm Missouri sunshine and family time.

And maybe, she'll work to recreate those feelings and experiences and attitudes and conversations with her own family. That's the beauty of tradition.

Tradition means that even though I am far from my sister this Easter, I can guess how she is celebrating and probably even how she's feeling. I can picture how my Aunt and Uncle are contemplating all the blessings of the Lord. I know how my parents will greet Easter with a “He is Risen” at the house on Norwich Street, even though Kate and I are grown and gone.

I think quite a bit about the importance of tradition. I always have been particularly aware of how things were and are and "should" be. But now, especially as a parent, I want to take careful note of how we create moments—both everyday and special-day. More than ever, I see how all of the experiences of my own childhood created this incredible reservoir of memory, values, faith, and significance. I want Sydney to have a similarly deep pool from which to draw.

So what creates tradition? It’s more than just doing the same things year after year; it’s how you do what you do. It’s creating rituals of action that are meaningful, and because they are meaningful, they become memorable and worthy of being passed along—often embellished and recollected warmly with the generosity that time lends to most old stories. Experiences become lasting when they are reinterpreted and re-imagined by the next generation—and usually they aren’t done exactly the same way as in years past. But it's when the spirit of the doing stays intact that traditions are made.

So here’s to traditions, past or present—those patterns of thought inherited over time make us who we are, and I—for one—am awfully glad they do.


Jodi Nierman said...

After my attempts in the pew tonight being unsuccessful, someday, my kids will make it, and will know. Your blog was refreshing! Jodi

Katrina said...

Neat post! Yeah, as I pack my kids Easter baskets tonight, the idea of tradition is very strong in my mind! Good times! :)