Tradition is an examination of what we hold dear. When you come upon a tradition that someone practices and believes in wholeheartedly it can be inspiring. Though, it can also be quite scary. Of course, there are positive and negative traditions, and some that have been set in motion, centuries old, have brought this world to its knees time and time again. But for a moment we will set aside the negative political, religious, and ancestral beliefs and focus on the bones of what a positive family tradition brings to your life, what a tradition among friends can do for your soul, and how professional traditions can improve relationships and build your business. Then we’ll discuss how creating your own traditions can transform your path so that you become an innovator – how the greatest minds of any generation know that to change things you must understand the rules in order to break them, to rewrite history, making your mark, and guiding the path for those after.
How will you be remembered?
What will you leave behind?
Speaking from Experience
My godmother used to send greeting cards for every occasion. She used to send a thank you card because she received your thank you card. She would tailor each envelope, each stamp, each mailing label, and each message to the individual. It wasn’t all that grandiose of a family tradition, but it was perfectly orchestrated. It wasn’t until later in life that I started to really appreciate it, and it wasn’t until her sudden and untimely passing that it became a commemoration of sorts. Now everyone in the family will be forever trying to compete with how darn good my godmother was at sending cards. I was a Christmas baby (three days after), my godmother used to buy a slightly more expensive gift and wrap it half in Christmas wrapping paper and half in birthday paper. On one half of the same gift, you would see Santa and ornaments. On the other side, you’d see birthday cakes and candles. That unique and humorous family tradition along with her cards was representative of her acute attention to detail – therefore these silly family traditions became a way of remembering a loved one and immortalizing the special person that she was.
This got me thinking of other family traditions. Also during the holidays, the Polish side of my family would go around and exchange blessed wafers called Oplatki; breaking a piece off of each other’s and eating it over a few kind words and well-wishes on Christmas Eve. Every year, together as always, the men would grumble about it, sit, and drink beer and bourbon while mothers, aunts, and grandmas cried happy tears, gave out hugs and kisses, said how proud they were of you and how much they believed the New Year would bring great things.
Holiday traditions like Christmas traditions, Thanksgiving traditions, and anniversaries can always be refined. Some of us cannot always be with our blood relatives at the holidays, so terms like having a Friendsgiving have become more popular. The idea is that you create a routine, it can be culturally based or not, generation-based or new, but this routine celebrated on a consistent timeline throughout your life is meant to improve your character and your relationships with others.
Traditions among friends can be as simple as a monthly phone call, a dinner, a trip, or some other type of get-together held each year. The tradition of childhood games, hobbies, or sporting events that have been a significantly positive force throughout your life can be a great way to keep friendships together even in adulthood.
Silly Family Traditions
You cannot create a new tradition without understanding the power of the old ones. A family tradition can be as simple as Sunday dinner without phones or Friday game or movie night. They can be carried out from generation to generation, and some can come out of nowhere, to the point where you don’t even know it’s happening until they take on a life of their own.
Over the past few years, with my mother and father living thousands of miles away from me, a new one has started. During one of their bi-annual trips to visit my fiancé and me, I ordered what my mom considered to be a very “girly” drink, and it came with a little umbrella. My mother has held onto that umbrella ever since and, by now, it looks like it has been through three hurricanes. On each trip when I’m not looking, she manages to put it on the rim of one of my drinks. It’s a silly family tradition, but it goes to her personality, her sense of humor and our ability to laugh together, and as my parents get older a way of remembering a loved one long after they are gone.
The Importance of Family Traditions
The importance of family traditions is undeniable. My mom is a three-time breast cancer survive, each year family and friends partake in a breast cancer walk, everyone gives my mom little trinkets and gifts, and the walk is concluded at brunch where mimosas are always served. No one misses it. That’s the power of great traditions; they become very significant to remembering a loved one whether friend or family. There is an obligation to the person or persons involved in that tradition, the dynamic or sentiment created by the act or event.
How a Family Tradition Can Improve Your Character
Many family traditions have a way of instilling a set of values and routine that teaches discipline and molds the future generations into positive members of society. Take for instance distinct finishing touches on a home cleaning routine like making the bed in a certain way that your mother had taught you, giving thanks before a meal, or setting the table with specific napkins on certain holidays, these subtle passed-down routines increase our productivity, ambition, and presentation in other areas of life.
What’s your family tradition? Which ones have you carried on from your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, and which ones have you created yourself or for your own children?
Many times a family vacation is also a tradition; some of us even go to the same spot year after year. It allows us to disconnect and focus on one of the most important things in life, our loved ones and friends. If you head to warm beaches, bluer seas and skies for your family vacation, you likely know some tropical traditions too. While watching the sunset and the sound of steel drums is all-too-familiar with this kind of lifestyle, perhaps you have created some of your own. My family used to collect shark’s teeth each year along a coastline in Florida, always trying to exceed the number on the previous trip. At their home, there is a bottle filled with thousands of them.
Home and Family Recipes
My grandma had arguably the best peach pie. Home and family recipes have also become a family tradition. The care that goes into good home and family recipes, the unique tastes and special ways they are prepared teach patience, diligence, and disciple. Home and family recipes also offer ways of remembering a loved one when they are gone, as your sense of smell and taste is deeply rooted in your memories of the times and people you shared these home and family recipes with. Home and family recipes bring your family and friends closer together. The unfortunate thing about some of these recipes is that no matter how hard the next generation tries they cannot duplicate them, it’s as if they hold their own particular DNA, as is the case with my grandmother’s peach pie. No one made it like her, but we still talk about it to this day, which keeps the memory of her alive.
Very American traditions like barbeques, summer cookouts, and Fourth of July traditions like fireworks are ingrained throughout our culture, and also have the ability to merge cultures. My grandparents were immigrants and brought over their own traditions to America, but also adapted many from the United States.
There are religious traditions too, some acting as positive forces in our lives and some being taken much too far. Saying your rosary before bedtime, Saturday temple, Sunday mass, meditation, confession, loving thy neighbor – these are practices that have been carried out a long time and help many to de-stress, unburden, become a better person, get closer to their friends, family, and to God, as well as appreciate life. For some, small religious traditions improve quality of life whereas others can subtract from it. Figure out what’s right for you.
Wedding Ceremony Traditions
A universal tradition that many of us celebrate is the loving union of a wedding. A wedding ceremony tradition will be different throughout various cultures. For example, in Filipino cultures, the newly married couple symbolizes their peaceable journey together by releasing two doves into the air. In Germany, the bride and groom will sometimes show their compatibility as partners by working together to saw a log in half. In Kenya, the father of the bride actually spits in his daughter’s face and on her chest for good luck. Check out this Buzzfeed article for a larger list of peculiar wedding ceremony traditions.
The more well-known practice of throwing rice as the bride and groom exit their wedding dates all the way back to the ancient Romans and symbolizes growth, good fortune, and fertility.
If you are heading into matrimony, you may want to go for a non-traditional wedding ceremony. There was a couple that chose the nontraditional wedding ceremony of getting married underwater and another that got married while skydiving. While all of these wedding ceremony traditions can seem a bit odd they are still based around something very positive – two loving people are coming together in the hopes of sharing a blooming life partnership.
Some suspect that the tradition of birthday candles originated from Ancient Greece, as cakes were illuminated and brought to Artemis’s temple – an offering to the esteemed goddess of the hunt. The candles were said to represent the glow of the moon during this hunt. The smoke from the candles was believed to carry prayers. When you blow out the candles at your own birthday and make a wish, you are sending them up to the sky to be fulfilled.
Professional traditions are also highly significant. Dressing to impress during important meetings. Exchanging business cards. Going out to lunch with coworkers, and even having more formal meetings with business contacts and clients at lunch restaurants can help to strengthen bonds.
While many companies are doing away with more formal meetings, there are those who still believe in their effectiveness for forming agreements and getting things done.
Other countries, for example, many places in Europe, think Americans do not put enough stock into eating lunch during a workday. There are many of us that cram subpar food into our faces while typing away at our desks (me included) and don’t take the time to savor a well-prepared meal during a good break.
Companies like Google and Facebook have in-house chefs and lavish rooms where employees can enjoy many pastimes while on their breaks like video games, bowling, reading, and swimming, making not going to lunch quite pleasant. These companies still advocate for time away from the office too. While a fixed budget at many offices may not allow for this type of white glove treatment merely placing more importance on rest, recuperation, a well-balanced meal, social interactions, and a work-life balance may help to breed more productive employees. Warby Parker sets up luncheons for employees that wouldn’t usually dine together so they can get to know one another.
It is also many European countries that believe in more vacation time for employees instead of the cultural norm of two weeks per year in America. Though, forward-thinking American companies are now offering more vacation time, summer half-days at the end of the week, and even the option of yearly half-days by simply adding an hour on each preceding day of the week. There are also the rarer American companies that simply do four day weeks without so much stress placed on the typical 40-hour work week.
While offices may not be jumping on the bandwagon of offering more vacation time they should practice traditions that advocate for positive communications and closer bonds. Previous companies I have worked for held monthly happy hours and bi-monthly events like bowling. My company today holds an annual holiday meeting in a pleasant location where positive ideas are discussed, and several fun team-building exercises are completed. The two-day event then culminates at a lovely dinner.
For quick and easily planned events go out for lunch each week or every other. Some businesses do golf outings or company softball games. Most celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, as well as other holidays. Host an office luau during summer or winter. Do a secret Santa. Create a fitness program where you exercise together.
Good companies know the importance of instilling traditions that will take their employees into the future while also reminding them of the principles the company was founded. REI, a company specializing in outdoor gear for hiking, climbing, and more, believes in the products they sell and the culture they represent – they ensure employees become part of that culture by awarding free gear for the adventures employees would like to go on. The company votes on these incredible journeys and the best ones are granted the products needed to orchestrate it. Squarespace hosts regular guest lectures and fun monthly festivities.
Make your company traditions indicative of the respect you have for your employees, your customers, your community, and the world. Companies can be known for the good deeds they do, the services and products they offer, and the content they produce; whether it’s great commercials, helpful articles, or groundbreaking changes that continue to shake up their industry. Understand that positive professional traditions will help to improve brand awareness and brand respect.
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