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The Problem with Traditions

Just something to think about.

By Mark GagnonPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - January 2024
The Problem with Traditions
Photo by Muhammad Rizwan on Unsplash

According to, the definition of tradition is The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice. A long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting.

What all the dictionaries seem to leave out of the definition is the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous words in any language. I’m sure most of you are thinking, “What are you talking about?” If you give it some serious thought with an open mind you’ll understand.

Sure, some traditions, like going to Grandma’s house every Thanksgiving or attending a parade on the 4th of July, are pretty harmless. Many traditions are really foolish. All we have to do is look at what students do when it’s graduation time. Everyone dawns a long robe and places a strange-looking item on their head called a Mortarboard hat. This ridiculous headgear dates back to the 15th century when Roman Catholic clerics wore a hat known as Birettas. The hat has nothing to do with graduation and could have been invented by a drunk priest who wandered around with a square piece of stiff felt on his head. Maybe it was raining, and the priest needed a makeshift umbrella. Somehow, this has become a tradition. Kids spend 13 years of their lives striving to earn the right to walk down the aisle with a pizza box on their heads.

Silly traditions aside, what’s really important are the traditions that have plagued humans from the beginning of time. Religions are fraught with the kinds of entrenched thought that have stymied human advancement for centuries. Galileo spent most of his adult life under house arrest because he supported Copernicus’s theory that the planets orbit the sun. This contradicted the church’s teaching that the sun and planets rotated around the earth. If we were to trace scientific progress over the ages, it would become clear that for every innovation there was a group of traditionalists doing their best to bring things back to the way they were. I’m sure when people started building shelters and moving out of caves, some said, “This cave was good enough for my father and his father and it’s good enough for me”.

It’s that entrenched, some would say stubborn, kind of thinking that limits a person’s horizons. Coal mining has been a family tradition for six generations, so why should it change with me? There are so many things that people refuse to do because it involves changing what they perceive as a time-honored tradition.

The Jews, and, by extension, Muslims, refuse to eat any product that comes from pigs. This tradition harkens from the 40-year trek across the desert. People made the connection that many of them were becoming sick after eating pork, so they did the reasonable thing and banned it. Today we know that trichinosis comes from under-cooked pork. It’s been centuries since the ban went into effect, but no one has bothered to update it. There are more outdated traditions than I have time to write about.

Wars are fought because people refuse to give up traditions. People are persecuted because one group’s traditions are at odds with that of another’s. Of course, many traditions started because one or two people had an idea, and convinced other people it was a good idea. The masses, acting like Lemmings, found it easier to accept what they were told rather than to think for themselves. Yes, traditions can be the simple passing on of information from generation to generation, but normally they are so much more dangerous.

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About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling the US and abroad. Now it's time to create what I hope are interesting fictional stories.

I have 2 books on Amazon, Mitigating Circumstances and Short Stories for Open Minds.

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Comments (8)

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  • Salomé Saffiri13 days ago

    A great subject to write about. This year I've adopted a new philosophy- Not following the family traditions that stress me out and give nothing to me personally. Like putting up a christmas tree, for example

  • Naveed about a month ago

    . Awe-inspiring work! Keep up the remarkable effort—congrats!

  • Tina D'Angeloabout a month ago

    I do worry about you and your wife, living in such harsh conditions. I hear the sand is up to your ankles!

  • Tina D'Angeloabout a month ago

    Absolutely! You are so right! Congratulations on top story. Do you remember the story about the woman who always cut off the ends of her pork roast before cooking it? Her daughter asked her one day why she did it and the woman said, "Because Ma always did it this way, and her roasts were always delicious." When the daughter asked her grandmother about it, she said, "Oh, my oven pan was too short for the meat, so I always had to trim it first."

  • Nice

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    You're absolutely right. Well said and congrats on the TS.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    Tradition shouldn’t mean you are not allowed to adapt or adjust to the times. Great article Mark.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    The way I see it, traditions are just peer pressure from our dead ancestors, lol. If only people were more open minded, the world would be a better place!

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