Celebrating Traditions

The Importance of Traditions

The Importance of Traditions

By Sophia Harmes, PhD.

Traditions are a natural part of our lives. Whether they are practiced on a daily or weekly or seasonal basis, traditions provide a sense of familiarity and fellowship.  Practicing and preparing for traditions can be exhilarating as well as stressful.  

What are Traditions.

The definition of “tradition” according to the online Oxford dictionary is “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.”  Therefore, a tradition is something that we learn.  Most traditions are taught to us by our parents and other family members.  As we get older and have our own children, we pass traditions down to them.  

Types of Traditions

There are a variety of traditions that are celebrated or practiced.  Traditions can be related to holiday preparations or events, celebration of certain beliefs, specific customs that we perform, objects implemented, activities, and other things that are taught from one generation to the next.  Things that are considered traditions are rooted in past and many have developed for specific reasons.  These traditions than continue to the present.  Some examples of traditions include birthday parties, eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day, super bowl parties, Christmas shopping, July 4th fireworks, family reunions, etc.  We decorate our homes and businesses to celebrate Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, and Kwanza. Different cultures customarily celebrate their traditions based on their religion and or culture.

Traditions and Culture

Traditions are different from culture. Traditions include beliefs and behaviors passed from one generation to another that actually can be celebrated by different cultures that might adopt that tradition. Whereas culture encompasses shared characteristics of an entire group that have the same ethnic background and or history.  Their traditions could also be based on religious holidays.

Traditions and Family

Most traditions begin within the nuclear family since they are generally taught by parents and grandparents.  A tradition may be building a campfire when camping, taking a walk after dinner, celebrating holidays.  Parents may decide to practice celebrating Christmas with specific traditions that they bring together from their childhood.  This creates a new tradition for celebrating that holiday with your children. For example, maybe your partner's family enjoyed a Christmas Eve dinner which was then followed by a Christmas story on Christmas Eve.  And you may have enjoyed opening a gift on Christmas Eve and a Christmas story.  These two traditions that each of you enjoyed as children could be combined to create a new tradition.  Maybe you have a Christmas Eve dinner then opening a gift followed by a Christmas Eve bedtime story.

Recognizing and celebrating a birthday is a popular tradition. This is a tradition that's more personal to a family because it occurs annually on a specific day.  You may have the tradition of putting candles on top of a birthday cake and singing happy birthday before presents are opened. You may have the tradition of making a phone call to the birthday person or sending a birthday card. Regardless which you do, the tradition is that you recognize that person’s birthday.

Traditions and Rituals

There are traditional rituals that people engage in for example shaking a hand when you meet somebody. Giving a goodbye hug and kiss to a loved one. A ritual is more of something that you do every day generally at the same time each day. For example, brushing your teeth after you eat is a ritual as well as good hygiene.  So you could say that a ritual is a continual occurrence whereas a tradition occurs more infrequently.

Physical Effects of Traditions

Practicing or following traditions can be gratifying as well as stressful depending on the nature of the tradition.  For example, preparing for the holidays can be stressful on the hostess who is doing the preparation.  It can be stressful on parents when shopping for gifts for the children.  Or maybe you have that one family member who you dread seeing at family get togethers.  Stress can contribute to a host of health issues.  So if you are prone to becoming stressful when preparing for a tradition, take time to relax and regroup.  Regardless, we continue to engage in a variety of traditions year after year after year.  Why?  Because the preparation is rewarded when it is all over.  Family and friends can reconnect and celebrate.

Traditions and Emotional Wellbeing

Traditions influence our emotional wellbeing.  They are special to us and bring a sense of nostalgia and fondness.  Practicing them can bring a sense of comfort.  A tradition can create a sense of belonging.  Family traditions can strengthen the family dynamics within the household bring each member a sense of identity.  There is an element of expectation with the tradition.  Traditions provide familiarity, safety, stability, structure, nurture, love, and happiness.  Most importantly traditions bring people together whatever the occasion.


As you prepare for the traditions you will engage in this holiday season stop and think about the origin of this tradition.  When and why did it begin.  Create a story about these traditions to share with your friends and family.  It may start a great holiday conversation!  Happy Holidays!

*Dr. Harmes earned her PhD. in Energy and Environmental Policy.  Her academic background includes a BA in Geography and Economics, a MA in Geography and Environmental Planning and PhD. In Energy and Environmental Policy.  Her academic focus included human and physical geography, economics and sustainable development in developing countries.  Her Dissertation research studied the Chewa community in Eastern Zambia.  The Title of her Dissertation is “Developing Household Food Insecurity through Policies Reinforcing Dependency on Cultivating with Chemical Agricultural Inputs:  A Case Study of Zambia’s Chewa” 2011.  


First appeared in Therapeutic Thymes Magazine, Winter 2020, Issue 17.  http://therapeuticthymes.com/

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