Written by Frederica
It’s traditional! Once that was a common phrase. But what is tradition? How do you define tradition? Are traditions important?
Most cultures have traditions. Some, particularly with religious bias, appear to pay more fervent attention to their traditions than others. So one might infer that traditions make us what we are both nationally and culturally.
In ‘The Fiddler On The Roof’, Topol the milkman is a resolute supporter of ‘tradition’ For him, tradition was an immutable part of life. Rich or poor, tradition mattered greatly. To depart from tradition was, for him, akin to tearing his known world apart.
Events of the last year and a half have swept away many of our own traditions. It is possible that some of them will never return. Or if they do, it will not be in the way we remember them. I have been musing over and mourning the loss of some of the traditions that enriched life for me, especially in the years I was growing up. The stability engendered by ‘traditions’ formed a sort of bedrock on which to base one’s life.
Top of my list – and maybe for many others also – is Christmas. The carol services and midnight mass (Eucharist). The nativity plays enacted year on year by children in primary schools. The joy of seeing those little ones illustrating the Christmas message. Playing their parts with pride while at the same time learning that most essential part of Christian history.
Christmas is for children they only seem to know
The magic and the meaning that the Christ Child’s birth bestows
And so in each and every year The story of that stable is retold
By children in the simplest way – the baby born for them anew
And while they act their precious parts
The hearts of those who watch with pride expand with joy and wonder
For their innocence and trust
On a lighter note the traditional Christmas pantomime has always been an event providing the chance to let off steam with the children. Hooting at the villain and cheering the hero/heroine!
Easter brings the culmination of the Christian story following the, once solemnly observed, period of Lent. I cannot be the only one to remember having a ‘lenten box’ in the home in which one put monetary offerings for charity. Easter eggs for the children and the traditional roast lamb for Easter Sunday with a family gathering was an accepted event.
More formal traditions of a National nature include The Trooping of the Colour on the Queen’s Birthday Parade. The State Opening of Parliament. Remembrance Sunday. St George’s Day Parades – with marching bands and troops of military personnel; local dignitaries; cubs; scouts; brownies; girl guides along with cadets from the services and voluntary organisations. Each of these events brought many thousands of people onto the streets of London and towns up and down the Country, to celebrate the most essential of our National traditions. The camaraderie and national pride in our heritage that these events engendered has always been cherished in the hearts of us all.
There is a long list of other traditional events, including ‘The Last Night of the Proms’ – that was always a popular event amongst those patriotic souls who relished the opportunity to display their ‘love of Country and tradition’. They sang Rule Britannia; Jerusalem; Land of Hope and Glory – with gusto and fervour whilst waving the National Flag along with those of the individual countries that make up The Union. It has always irked me to see the (vulgarly named) ‘star spangled sphincter’ creeping in, insidiously, and waved more and more stridently in recent times into this most hallowed of National events!
New Year’s Eve and its most popular venue Trafalgar Square – bringing together Britons and foreigners alike in joyful celebration of a hopeful year to come – became (in my eyes) almost the modern equivalent of the solstice celebrations enacted over millennia at Stonehenge. Now there was a tradition that stood the test of time!
Guy Fawkes night with – in my day – small home celebrations in the garden with a bonfire, a homemade guy with a mask bought from the same local shop where we purchased our fireworks. I remember having a fireworks savings card in the local shop to which we added pennies and sixpences in the run up to the big day. Those savings were exchanged on the day before the event for a selection of fireworks on display in open boxes – probably with no thought of fire regulations in those days!. Big communal displays were few and far between in my childhood. Father was the fireworks setter-offer in our house!
Pubs are another ‘tradition’. Often hotbeds of potentially seditious but largely ‘hot air’ discussions about the rights and wrongs of the ‘world-in-general’. They provided for many years on an informal basis the opportunity to meet and associate with others in the community, who might not fall into the ‘close friends’ bracket. Then there are: Jumble Sales (more recently – boot fairs); Fun Fairs; Seaside Amusement Arcades; Boat trips; Youth clubs; Dances, in village halls and assembly rooms. The list goes on …
But it seems to me that we are being actively ‘encouraged’ to abandon our traditions and to live less expansive lives with ever fewer contacts with other people. It has been inexorably advancing year on year (often under the guise of ‘elf ‘n’ safety’) but seems to have become even more insidious over the past eighteen months using the excuse of COVID.
At the same time we are being surreptitiously obliged to accommodate ‘long held traditions’ that belong to other incoming cultures. The traditions of those people are often, by their very nature, exclusionary to non-believers/participants. Those people appear to be, carefully and inexorably, nurturing and entrenching their ‘traditions’ at the expense of ours.
Already, there are many ‘days of note’ from our history that have been actively ‘airbrushed out’ of consciousness and history: Empire Day; Lady Day; Trafalgar Day – to name but a few. Pageants and Carnivals that were once a feature of most large towns and cities have been effectively squeezed out of existence. The reason often cited for the suppression is ‘cost’.
But I wonder whether in fact there is a much more unpleasant agenda driving the loss of our most cherished ‘Traditions’. With the suppression of history and tradition being actively pursued in our educational institutions, in another generation, many of those I have listed above will have long been forgotten – never to return!