We live in an age in which it is hard to spend time together as a family. Many families today wonder if having quality time together is a thing of the past. We are inordinately busy, for one thing, whether household bread-winners or college students. Also, the definition of family has changed. We are dealing with new definitions and characterizations of the idea of family. Some of us have traditional families. Some families have divorced, single, and/or remarried parents, creating a rather confusing family tree. Some people choose to live their lives alone, but may still be close enough to some friends to consider them family.
Whatever the circumstances, many of us honestly don't know how to celebrate together. We may even see the word "tradition" as something stultifying and old, having no meaning for or application to us personally; something usually being forced upon us by someone who smells funny and is only seen on holidays. What all of this means is that we can no longer simply follow the examples of old. It is up to us to create new family traditions. Celebrating is not hard. We all know about celebrating and have some ways of doing it. The only challenge is to find new ways. Why do we need to celebrate tradition? It gives us something to look forward to and makes a formal statement that there are some things in life to be grateful for.
The notion of honoring tradition is unsettling for some people; let alone creating new ones. We understand that we need something to add a sense of order and stability to our lives. But we are not sure about how to create our own traditions. We seem to think that traditions must be heavy and complex ideas that had been around for hundreds of years and will be around for a hundred more. In my opinion, this is not true. It need not be big or religious at all. I believe a tradition is something that you do once that feels good, so you do it again and again.
The tale in Frost's "Mending Wall" can be viewed as an impromptu tradition. The two neighbors needing to repair the wall after the winter chill, find time to converse with each other about what's on their minds.
For example, every Sunday my dad makes tea and puts out two cups, his and mine. I am used to this. If I had to reach in the cupboard to get my own cup, something would be wrong. As it is, I get up out of my bed, I go into the kitchen, I see my cup sitting there, and I know I am ready to start the morning and I feel a little happy. Similarly, I sleep everynight with a greatly worn pillow that really should be thrown away, but for which I have a fondness for. I have a bad case of "pillow-head" every morning to prove it. When I lay my head on it at night ready for sleep, I am comforted. Every day, my mom makes dinner while I do my homework listening to the familiar bangs and clangs associated with making a meal. On Sunday, our family goes out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. These small things are some of our traditions. They are all qualities that identify my family and make us special. If we did not have these particular traditions, we would have others. That is because traditions insist upon themselves. Look around your own life and you will realize that they are everywhere. We clearly need them to provide a sense of order in our lives.
I know a chef who works long hours and is never home for dinner except on Monday. Then, he leaves the restaurant earlier than usual, and hurries home to spend time with his family. His family knows that they can depend on this, and they celebrate with a special dinner at home every Monday night.
My friends Brian and Andy have a house that has both a living room and a family room. I have never seen them in their living room. Once I admired its beautiful decoration and said, "But you never use it, do you?" "Oh, yes!" they said. "Every Sunday, we read the paper in here."
My neighbor decorates the windows on her house for the season. Valentines, snowflakes, pumpkins, and fireworks are drawn by her children and taped into place. I get reminded of upcoming holidays that way.
My friend Vinh gives his son Jackie "horsy rides." Everynight at seven-thirty, Jackie saddles up on the mighty steed and is buckled off landing on the soft carpeting. It is hard to tell who gets more out of this.
All of these moments are traditions, inventions of people who mean to put more meaning into their lives and those they love. Tradition is in all our lives in one way or another. Without participation in such activities there would be no family bond or pride. Being involved in these activities brings people closer and makes us understand who we are. Everything we do and every day of our lives we take part in a tradition in one form or another.
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