Tradition & Ritual

The Christian celebration of Christmas Day, like other traditional “holy days” such as Eid al-Adha for Muslims, is not just a chance to share our abundance with our families and the poor and needy. Like New Year’s, it is an occasion to pause, to slow down the normally hectic pace of our lives, and to take time out to reflect on some perennial questions.

  • Who are we?
  • Why are we here?
  • What do we want out of life?
  • What do we want in our relationships with others?

The rituals and traditions associated with most special days, especially the ones that are handed down through the centuries, define us and our communities. They connect us to historical interpretations of “who we are”, they frame how we observe the world, they define what is important. They can also give meaning to our lives.

You might think that rituals and traditions, like those associated with holy days, are becoming a casualty of living in a real-time world. They should not.

In our real-time world, we are heading into unknown territory. No one knows for certain what the future will be. We don’t have maps, we don’t know where we’re going, and we are traveling at light speed. All we can know—and all we really need to know to avoid feeling lost when navigating in real time—is where we are, where we’ve come from, and what is needed in the moment.

Any and all traditions connect us to where we’ve come from (our past) and to what we want to take care of (our present and future). When we’re moving through life quickly, we need to embody our values so that our responses can be natural—almost automatic—and consistent with the world we want to create and are creating the moment to moment. Forget to cultivate our traditions through rituals and practices and we run the risk of disconnecting from ourselves and who we are as family, organization, and community.

Forget our traditions of love and charity and we may disconnect from our humanity.