As I’ve been going through planning this wedding I’ve been thinking a lot about tradition. My mother pushed for some traditional things that I didn’t think was needed, the double envelopes for the invites and printed cocktail napkins. I however found myself pushing for it in some other ways, the monogrammed thank you notes that are just so classic and southern, the traditional wedding vows, taking his last name. But, I also wanted some modern things as well. I’m not walking down the aisle to a traditional bridal march, but rather a beautiful piano song with no wedding ties. Our rehearsal dinner will be casual and have a taco food truck.
The mix of new and old and traditional and non-traditional got me thinking about how we view and use traditions in our everyday life. Obviously we all have family traditions that we love and value, but when it comes to societal traditions we seem to be trying to shed them. Traditional suddenly seems stuffy. Instead of classic, it’s being seen as dated. It’s a turn of events that I’ve hated seeing. Not because I think all traditions are worth keeping, but because I think there’s still value in a lot of them.
There is something really cultural about your traditions that link you to not only your location but also to your ancestors. It ties us to where we come from and how we were raised. It highlights our pride in our home and our people and I don’t think that should ever be lost. I don’t think taking pride in your heritage or culture demeans any others, but rather adds to the diversity that makes the world special.
I also believe that traditions often exist for a reason. Maybe not so much the monogrammed thank you notes, but the traditional family structure that keeps children supported by two parents. The structure that makes it so if one parent falls the other one will be there still. The structure that allows children to take care of their parents like they took care of us once they age. Keeping to these traditional structures, no matter how loosely the modern family does, can help keep children out of trouble and help fight off debt. There have been multiple studies on the fact that these systems work, so maybe it’s best not to throw them completely out the window.
Is there room for growth within tradition? Of course, there is a lot of room for growth. Traditionally women couldn’t own property or vote, those are traditions we should have promptly saw out the door. There are a lot of traditions that aren’t needed anymore, we simply grew out of them, advanced passed them, and some of them weren’t needed to begin with. But that doesn’t mean that we should throw them all out.
I think we should spend more time trying to figure out why a lot of traditions existed in the first place. Why they were so important. We should take time to figure out how southern food came to be (it has roots in slavery, which gives us an opportunity to learn about the plight of those poor souls and their liberation and fight for equality). Or why traditionally and still in some religions people didn’t eat pork (we used not have the ability to clean pork of all the parasites and toxins wild pigs had).
Knowing where these traditions came from help us learn which ones are valuable now and which ones aren’t. Which ones we should hold up and which ones we should sweep under the rug. It’s not about living in a completely traditional world, but finding the perfect mix between traditional and modern. It’s about finding that sweet spot in learning from our ancestors mistakes but also learning from their successes.