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Features

Four Reasons Why Traditions Matter

Boiled Down
  • Christmas and the holiday season brings with it a variety of cultural and familial traditions.
  • Every nation and culture in the world has its traditions. Tradition is a belief, principle, custom or behaviour with symbolic meaning or special significance that people in a particular group or society have continued to follow for a long time often being handed down from one generation to the next.
  • Traditions are important as they help us achieve the “Four B’s”: Being, Belonging, Believing and Benevolence.
  • Traditions are constant, give us something to look forward to and are fun and enjoyable while, keeping us grounded and focused on what really matters in life.

The holiday season fast approaches, bringing with it a variety of cultural and familial traditions. A sense of excitement and magic is in the air; you can smell it, even taste it.

In our fast paced and ever changing lives and a world that appears to be in constant turmoil, traditions are more important than ever before. They offer constancy, stability, familiarity and a semblance of order and predictability to our existence. They comfort us, give us a sense of belonging, and make us feel safe and secure.

Tradition is a belief, principle, custom or behaviour with symbolic meaning or special significance that people in a particular group or society have continued to follow for a long time, often being handed down from one generation to the next. It’s derived from the Latin verb “trader” meaning to transmit, hand over, give for safekeeping. It’s frequently assumed that traditions have ancient history, but many have been invented on purpose over short spans of time.

They’re regular behaviours or actions that we engage in over and over again at the same time and often in the same way. They differ from our routines or habits as they’re done consciously with a specific purpose in mind.

We invest traditions with emotion, which is why we value them so much. They’re often the glue that binds a community or family of people together, and are a critical part of any culture. But while specific traditions vary from person to person and culture to culture, what is clear is that across the world the concept of traditions is important. The Ipsos MORI Global Trends 2017 survey  interviewed over 18,000 people in 23 countries and found that globally 80% agreed that “traditions are an important part of society” and for all bar one country, Japan, this sentiment was increasing.

Why are traditions so important to us? Why do we need them? According to Saul Levine M.D., Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, tradition helps us achieve the “Four B’s”.

  1. Being – our sense of inner peace and self-acceptance of our strengths and weaknesses and feeling grounded in our core identity.
  2. Belonging – our sense of comfort from being part of a group of people such as a family or team that share our values and provide support, respect and friendship.
  3. Believing – our need to believe in a system of moral principles and ethical behaviour be that religious or secular
  4. Benevolence – our predisposition to be helpful to others in need, to enhance the lives of others in our group of people or even strangers.

Traditions provide us with numerous benefits. They provide us with a source of identity; they tell the story of where we came from and remind us of what has shaped our lives. They connect generations and strengthen our group bonds, and help us feel that we are part of something unique and special. They offer us both comfort and security especially in times of profound change and grief. They teach us values and help us pass on our cultural or religious history. Best of all, they create lasting memories which in itself provides us with a wide variety of benefits.

However, not all traditions are good. Some traditions people do just because they’re traditions and they don’t take the time to think very carefully about why they’re doing them or to question what purpose they serve. Others are just downright dangerous, such as the Polar Bear Plunge in the US, the Baby Dropping Ritual in Solapur, India, Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling in Gloucester, England and Running with the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Traditions are society’s assets, but only if they are allowed to evolve with the times. They’re not written in stone. They should adapt constantly to meet the changing requirements of both time and social contexts. They’re living beasts. We can decide for ourselves which traditions are worth preserving, which ones require some revision, and which are best consigned to history.

Why do we bother? Traditions are constant, give us something to look forward to, and on the whole tend to be fun and enjoyable while keeping us grounded and focused on what really matters in life – our families or chosen group that we belong to.

During the Christmas holiday season we will all have certain things we always do – our traditions. These specially seem to stick in our memories. But, how many that you’ll personally follow or are at least aware of do you know the origins of?

1. Christmas Carols

Originally Pagan folk songs sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations (December 22nd) as people danced round stone circles, ‘Carol’ meant ‘a dance in a ring’. Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. The first English Christmas carol on record was written by a chaplain in 1426 who listed twenty five “caroles of Cristemas”.

2. Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding, or Plum pudding, is the traditional end to the UK Christmas dinner. Originating in the 14th century, it was a porridge called ‘frumenty’ that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This evolved into the current 13 ingredient pudding in the 17th century with each ingredient supposedly representing Jesus and his Disciples. It is traditionally decorated with a sprig of holly to represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore during his crucifixion and brandy is poured over the pudding and set alight at the table to represent Jesus’ love and power. A silver coin in the pudding is another custom said to bring good luck to the person that finds it!

3. Boxing Day

Boxing Day on December 26th is celebrated in countries mainly historically connected with the UK and some European countries including Germany. It originated in the UK in the Middle Ages as the day when the church collection boxes for the poor were opened and the money inside distributed to the poor. It became the annual day off for servants when they would receive a Christmas box from their employers containing money and small gifts and for tradespeople to travel round their delivery places and collect their Christmas box or tip. It remains a public holiday to this day.

Understanding the traditions of your customers has never been so important. Understanding how these impact your brand is critical to adding authenticity to your story and long term viability for your brand. Understanding these cultural nuances and idiosyncrasies could be your key differentiating factor in building customer relationships.

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