The Art of Tradition

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Before I began this article, I made a list of traditions that I’ve maintained over the years. I remembered fondly how my dad used to take my brother and me fishing, just as my grandfather took him and my uncle. I recalled how my mom would hide our birthday presents throughout the house and make a game to find them, further elevating the surprise once we did, and I do the same with my children today. I thought about family trips to the beach growing up, and how my wife and I now take our kids to the same beach every summer — even eating at the same restaurants and visiting the same shops for souvenirs. And I laugh about the annual Thanksgiving Day football game with my high school friends that we played since the ninth grade and well into adulthood . . . until our bodies reminded us that watching games together worked a lot better. With all of these memories, I’ve found that regardless of the tradition’s nature, the one thing that rings true each time is the fact I’m always surrounded by loved ones. You see, tradition as a practice only has one goal: to bring people together.

During the last month, we’ve attended several events – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah celebrations, office parties of all kinds, and we’ll soon celebrate Christmas, New Years Eve, and New Years. These have been crammed into a six-week span of time, all with completely different significance. In fact, just reading that sentence probably created a variety of images in your mind. Was it the food, weather, people or places? Maybe it was all of them? Either way, the foundation of that imagery is rooted in the traditions that year-after-year, force us to stop and reflect, even if for a moment, and remember who we are.

These moments – big or small – work like building blocks to create sturdy traditions that are passed down generation to generation. Even though every tradition is unique in its creation or meaning, in the end each unites us under one roof to create new memories and new moments. The remarkable thing about traditions is that when we gather under one roof, we leave our doors open and our walls are broken down. We do this to make our traditions as welcoming to others, as they were to us from the beginning with loved ones both young and old, new friends and life-long companions.

Shakespeare once said, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” That phrase reminds me about what it means to keep traditions alive. It makes me aware of the fact that year after year, I’ll always return to my roots, grounded by friends and family, eager to break bread, share a laugh, and always welcome new faces in.


Text by Richie Frieman, “Modern Manners Guy” podcast host and author of Reply All . . . and Other Ways to Tank Your Career and Where The Heart Left Off.

Illustrations by Tim Skirven.

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