There are certain traditions I’ve always loved. Opening gifts on December 24 is high on my list. As well there’s a special place in my heart for anyone who overuses the word “festival” as it brings back so many memories from years past, which only my closest friends understand.
Traditions are nothing new. In fact, it’s because they’re not new they hold any value whatsoever. They can originate from practically anywhere—passed down through the generations, originated from a memorable experience, or even created as a way to commemorate an event.
However, now that I’m married I’m learning traditions aren’t always easily explained to someone who hasn’t been a part of them. The ones I’ve held dear for many years aren’t the same as the ones my husband connects with. He certainly doesn’t dissolve into laughter when he hears the word “festival.” And I will never understand his strange phone conversations with high school friends, concluding with a made-up language.
While much of the time our odd traditions don’t cause conflict, sometimes they do collide—especially when these traditions involve family or holidays. It’s in these times I’m learning we must fuse our traditions.
We asked a few clarifying questions in order to observe traditions we could both live with.
- Should one tradition replace the other?
- Should both traditions be thrown out and new ones created?
- Should we alternate traditions?
- Should we even bother with traditions?
It took this discussion to make me realize how much I value tradition. For me, tradition contributes to who I am and I look forward to sharing my traditions with others to create special bonds and memories.
Before all this I thought of tradition as more of a legalistic and/or religious practice—something Jesus stood against in His ministry on earth (Matthew 15; Mark 7). However, tradition is so much more than rituals. The New Testament encourages Christians to not only repeat what we have been taught but to teach others as well (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24–25; 2 Thessalonians 2–3).
Traditions also help me remember what God has done for me. If you’re into crime dramas you may have seen the show Unforgettable. In it Detective Carrie Wells has a condition resulting in an excessive memory (hyperthymesia). She has the ability to visually remember entire scenes of her life. Unfortunately for me, this condition is rare. In order to remember things I often resort to memory games and creating routines.
I don’t mean to forget, my mind just can’t keep all the information intact. And it turns out forgetting is a human condition. I suspect that’s why God instructed the Israelites to begin the Passover festival in Exodus 12. It’s a holiday designed to acknowledge and celebrate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and to remember what God did for them. I wonder how well the world would recall this event if there wasn’t a commemoration.
As a Christian, traditions help me keep Christ and what He’s done for me at the forefront of my mind. In my busyness it’s so easy to go through the motions and forget Him in the process.
In general, traditions are important because they help us remember, bind us together, and add significance to an event or a relationship. However, when traditions collide—especially in a new relationship—they could serve to do the opposite. Traditions must not be more important than a relationship, between you and your spouse, your family, or God.
When fusing traditions something to keep in mind is the tradition itself is not what makes relationships meaningful. Romans 4:10–12 points out that God doesn’t accept us because we adhere to religious traditions, but because of our faith. The traditions are simply a tangible way of acknowledging the importance of relationships, family, or events.
On the surface, the rituals and traditions we attend to may seem a bit strange. But when we think of the history behind them, and of why we bother, often we discover a great opportunity to remember and celebrate God’s blessings in our lives.