Good traditions can strengthen families, communities, and nations. Have you ever pondered the traditions in your family, group, and community? Do you know why you do certain things the way you do? A tradition is something that has been used by the members of a particular group, family, or society; it is the handing down of beliefs, customs, legends, etc. from one generation to the next generation. Traditions can be good or evil. What kind of traditions do you follow? Do your traditions help you to follow the Savior, or do they move you further from God?
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
“Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
“But he answered and said unto them Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
“For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
“But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightiest be profited by me;
“And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandments of God of none effect by your tradition.
“Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 14:1-9).
Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Quorum of the Seventy spoke about developing the right kind of traditions. “… I have long been interested in culture and tradition and their influence on how we look, think, and act…. Traditions, established patterns of behavior transmitted from generation to generation, are an inherent part of culture. Our culture and its related traditions help establish our sense of identity and fill the vital human need to belong.
“Of traditions which are complementary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul admonished the Thessalonians, `Therefore, … stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught’ (2 Thes. 2:15). In the Church, powerful traditions remind us of the strength and sacrifice of our ancestors and inspire our efforts. Among them are industry, frugality, and complete devotion to a righteous cause. Others are based on doctrine and standards which may seem peculiar to the world but are consistent with God’s pattern. These include chaste behavior, modesty of dress, unpolluted language, Sabbath observance, adherence to the Word of Wisdom, and the payment of tithes.
“Even in ethnic culture, many traditions can reinforce gospel standards and principles….
“Uplifting traditions play a significant role in leading us toward the things of the Spirit. Those that promote love for Deity and unity in families and among people are especially important” (“Cultivate Righteous Traditions,” Liahona, January 2001).
I am often surprised at the “traditions” that are in my family and the importance of them to my children. Pickles and olives were part of every holiday celebration in my childhood home. We seldom had either of these foods; we liked pickles a lot but only played with the olives by sticking them on our fingers. I have no idea why the tradition was started, but I continued it in my home – and my children stuck the olives on their fingers to play with them. Now I have grandchildren with one granddaughter living close to me. She likes olives, but she also sticks them on her fingers to play with them.
I learned of another “tradition” when I decorated for Christmas last year. My son brought his family over to visit and noticed a raggedy little Santa Claus. I heard him tell his wife about this little Santa and how he was always part of our Christmas decorations.
We have to be careful about the “traditions” we follow. I heard a story about a woman who was preparing a ham for baking. She cut off both ends of the ham before putting it in the oven. Her daughter watched as she worked and asked her mother why she cut the ends off. The mother replied that she did not know the reason but this was the way her mother cooked hams. The daughter became very interested and asked her grandmother why she cut off the ends of her ham. The grandmother said that she did not know why but just did it the way her mother did. The daughter went to the great-grandmother and asked her why she cut off the ends of her ham. The grandmother replied that she cut off the ends so that the ham would fit in her pan. This “tradition” went through several generations without knowing why the tradition started.
I am disgusted every year when I see Christmas decorations in the stores around the first of October, way before Halloween. We used to be able to celebrate each holiday by itself, but now Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all lumped together. Black Friday, a shopping frenzy, has been a part of our society for a few years. It is a time when many stores have special sales to lure shoppers into their places of business on the day after Thanksgiving Day. This year the holiday shopping bonanza began earlier when about a dozen retailers started their specials on Gray Thursday – Thanksgiving Day. From the pictures at this site, it did not look like fun to me or a way I want to spend Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving Day has always been a day when families and friends gather together to give thanks to God for their many blessings and to simply enjoy being together. Since the “Black Friday creep” came along, the family celebration has become a commercial melee. I understand that stores and families are facing tough times because of the economy, but I believe this commercialization of Thanksgiving Day will have a negative effect on many families and our society in general. I am grateful that my family gathered for feasting and fun as well as expressing gratitude. We ate leisurely and visited for a long time. After our meal was over and the dishes cleared away, we stayed together to play games and visit until the little ones had to be taken home for bed. It was a delightful day, one that I would not have traded for any financial gain. This is a tradition I hope my family continues.