I loved the song “Tradition” in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”.  My southern family has always been steeped in traditions. Many of them include food- and lots of it. So many good memories include times together with three or four generations on my mother’s side, enjoying the cooking, eating and cleaning up after eating some of our favorite family recipes. 

My children get to choose their birthday meal. Now the grandchildren do, as well. It is one of our traditions.  I smile when one or more of them gravitate toward the kitchen to help in preparation, hoping that this tradition is safely being passed along. Not because it is a ‘big deal’ but because it is something that has positive and loving meaning to each one of us.

As a young person, what family traditions do you enjoy? As a parent or leader, what traditions have you enjoyed passing along? What kinds of traditions would you like to see included in the next generation?

There are traditions personal to families and to individuals. Some of them are vital and steady through the years. Others change as the dynamics of life change. Still others are left behind as the life cycle continues. Those retained are dear to the heart. Or at least, we hope they would be.

What of traditions of another sort?   In the scriptures, we read about the “traditions of men”, which infiltrate the pure truths of the gospel.  As our spiritual growth continues, it is a good thing to dig through scripture, study it out, and offer prayers to make sure we are carrying on good things, and not continuing a watered down version of all that the Lord would have us know and do. The same holds true for those repeated activities that are part of us and our family.

A Guide—Not a Jailer

William Somerset Maugham once said, “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”  Having opportunity to build upon what has come before is a warm fuzzy as well as a strength to the core of who we become. But to remain tied to traditions that may have no real significance — we can find that out for ourselves as we ponder and take time to ask ourselves, “Why am I/are we doing this?” Amazing things can happen. We might learn, as the young newly married woman did, that a tradition needs to be ditched. For generations, the ends had been cut off pot roast before putting it in the oven. She learned from talking to her mom, then her grandmother, and then her great-grandmother, that this was one tradition she need not continue. Her grandmother had cut the ends of a pot roast on an occasion when it would not fit in the roaster! Little eyes had been watching and learning, so the young woman’s grandmother had cut the ends of each pot roast she cooked! The mother had done the same.

If we are currently carrying on some traditions that have no real value, gospel-wise, it is a good thing to figure out if we are simply cutting the ends off a proverbial pot roast!

Traditions should be a guide, and not a jailer!

Take Thought to Ask

If we have taken “no thought but to ask” – if we have not studied out something in our own minds, put in the time for reading and studying, weighing the pros and cons, how can we honestly ask our Father in Heaven for verification of choice? When we “take thought”, we take time to come to a reasonable conclusion, based upon righteousness as well as we are able to discern. Then we can take it to our God, for approval.  When we take thought, we may decide that it’s time to drop a couple of traditions, if they have no bearing on our righteous growth.

Making More Time  

In a hurry-up world, you and I probably wish we had more hours in the day. Or two of ourselves to get “everything done.” Since neither of those options will work for us, how do we make more time? One thing I have been working on is deleting some of the “traditions” picked up from my mother before me, and hers before her. My sister and I have actually been working on this one together, recognizing that we really do not have to fix everything for everyone around us. Nor do we need to continue to take on more than is good for our health. You know the drill: “Sure! I can do that!” to whomever asks whatever. Or we go through an entire routine in our own minds, arguing [emotion versus reason, I believe] back and forth over doing what one of the children should do for themselves, or trying to fit that perfect mold of “Super Person” – and emotion winning.

Bottom line: we become more frantic or overwhelmed. We are creating or continuing a tradition of “Running faster than we have strength”. Making more time for breathing, for pondering, for tending ourselves, is a very good tradition to begin, or to continue! Having these tools, we can better decide what traditions are worth working on, because of their eternal significance. And we might enjoy a better quality of life along the way.

Continue what is worth continuing

Decorating birthday cakes, going to our friends’ house for activities, cooking certain meals at certain times, watching the Big Game every week, reading the scriptures every day, having family prayer daily….these are a few traditions that may be a part of your family. When pondering over traditions, figure out which ones build character and contribute to personal and family growth. If there are some traditions that only snarl the schedule or snarl the soul, get rid of it. If we are doing something – even with regard to the gospel- only ‘because’- maybe it is a good time to dig deep, to study and to reflect in order to learn why this good tradition is worth being part of our personal life and our family’s.

If our investigation takes us to different talks by our leaders, to particular scriptures, or allows us to have a more in-depth discussion with a loved one, we will come away with more information and more love for that tradition. If we dead-end, we can remove it from our list without regret.

I hope this makes sense. One of my “traditions” is to write this column for Meridian . Usually, I am impressed with a topic to address. At times, the words come easier. Some times, I only hope my words stir a thought so that you may be edified.

One thing is for sure: we are a people with traditions.

My hope is that, by sorting through the few pointers I have offered up today, you might solidify a few beautiful traditions, and bounce a couple that may not be needed!