According to its Wikipedia definition, a tradition is a “ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past.”
What are your favorite societal traditions? Do you get charged up by the annual advent of college or professional football season? Which national holiday is your favorite? Thanksgiving, Christmas or Halloween? And, what about your active personal rituals? Do you love a daily Cup O’ Joe or a three-mile run? Have you ever stopped to consider how often traditions and rituals impact your life?
The dual aspect of ritual, i.e. the remembering and honoring of the past while creating a new experience in the present, is somewhat of a paradox. With the existence of ritual, we, as society and individuals, seem to grow and change while simultaneously “saving the peeled onion’s skin” to remember and preserve our previous ways and selves. Would you agree? Do we find and lose ourselves in traditions?
To a certain degree, societal traditions provide a familiar path that we can walk as the world keeps changing around us and as we continue growing as individuals. For example, as we confront the aging process, birthday celebrations can help us joyfully confront the transition. And, when we experience the loss of loved ones, funerals and memorial services can help us navigate through the pain.
Over this weekend here in the U.S., many public memorial services will be held to recognize the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. At the same time, many individuals will hold their own private rituals to remember all that changed in the world and in our lives that bright Tuesday morning in September 2001.
Who knows? Maybe my fellow native North Carolinian Ryan Adams, who so famously sang on September 7, 2001, “I still love you New York,” will mark the 10-year anniversary of the tragic day by writing a new song?
How will you mark September 11, 2011? Will you be participating in a previous tradition, or will you create a new ritual of your own?