Traditions provide peace, memories

Last month I was in the Louisville airport and I was surprised to see big pots of roses all around the airport. Then I realized it was the weekend for the Kentucky Derby, which is also called the Run for the Roses since the winner receives a garland of roses.

Later in May I was in the Indianapolis airport where I saw extra race cars on display. This time it was the weekend for the Indianapolis 500.

Big events such as these two races often bring various traditions with them, hence the roses in the Louisville airport. Some of the traditional events here in Columbus are the Salute! concert Memorial Day weekend, Ethnic Expo in October and the Festival of Lights parade in December. These events bring the community together to celebrate the values we share. This chance to connect with others is one reason traditions matter.

According to Frank Sonnenberg, an award-winning author of business management books, “Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become.”

Traditions help us feel a sense of belonging and help us know who we are. Traditions also create memories that keep us connected to each other.

Additionally, traditions give us something to look forward to. As Thanksgiving approaches I get excited to visit my family and sample a great variety of pies. Christmas brings other traditions. For my family those include putting out certain decorations, making a gingerbread house and sipping hot wassail on Christmas Eve. Something seems to be missing if we don’t do one of these activities. The predictability of these traditions brings comfort when the rest of life may be out of our control.

However, we need to be careful to not dismiss new ways of doing things just because they don’t fit with our traditions. Examining our traditions can help us understand why we do them as this story illustrates. A young wife is preparing a pot roast for dinner and cuts off both ends before placing it in the pan. Curious, her husband asks why she cuts the ends off. She says that is how her mother always made pot roast. When the mother is asked why she cuts the ends off, she replies that is how her mother always made pot roast. When the grandmother is asked why she cuts the ends off, she laughs and replies, “To make the pot roast fit in my pan.” Cutting the ends off the pot roast wasn’t done to make the roast taste better, but to make it fit in the pan. This tradition could be changed.

On the other hand, doing something in a certain way may be an important part of the tradition. I always make the same gingerbread house decorated in the same way at Christmas and several times my children or husband suggested that we branch out and make a different gingerbread house or decorate it differently. I was resistant and realized that for me the tradition was not just making a gingerbread house, but was making the gingerbread house my mother had always made.

As my children have gotten older, some of our traditions have changed. Neither my youngest son nor I like hard boiled eggs, so we stopped coloring eggs at Easter time once he was the only one still home. However, we still kept our tradition of hiding each other’s Easter baskets. Now that he is going off to college more traditions may change as our family adapts to new situations. Giving up or changing long-standing traditions may be difficult, but we will also have the chance to establish new traditions.

Think about your traditions and why you do them. Are there any you would like to change? Would you like to add a new tradition? Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your traditions and the connections and comfort they bring!

Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is a mother, an adjunct instructor of English at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and a substitute teacher for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. She can be reached at editorial@therepublic.com.