Tradition and the Modern Holiday Season

Authors, Omar Abdelhamid, Society

By Omar Abdelhamid

What holiday is special to you? Why is it special to you?

The latin word tradere, meaning handed over, is the root word for tradition. Tradition is quite literally handing over ideas, customs, cultures, and morals.

When we celebrate a holiday, passed down to us from our ancestors, the celebration is not merely a religious celebration, but also a chance to connect with the people important to us, and the ideas that are important to us.  We are able to connect to our previous generations of family and strengthen it, by replicating and carrying on the traditions of holidays. It brings us closer to our ancestors and our culture, who celebrated the same holiday with the same customs and in (almost) the same way.

The fact that a holiday comes with any idea or religious belief is simply a way of a message traveling from generation to generation.

Thus, the holiday season has, over the years, evolved into something not solely defined by religion. More “unholy holidays” are beginning to arise out the of changing interests of people.


Take Kwanzaa for example.

2003 Kwanzaa celebration with its founder, Maulana Karenga, and others

2003 Kwanzaa celebration with its founder, Maulana Karenga, and others

Formed in the 1965,when  the Civil Rights Movement was taking place, the holiday was less religious and more about finding cultural independence for African Americans. They had been separated from their land, culture, religion, and traditions when brought into America as slaves, so Kwanzaa was formed as a link to these lost heritages. During the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans were tired of having to celebrate and be a part of White Traditions and cultures, and decided to state their independence and state their freedom by uniting together as African Americans through Kwanzaa and the attempted rebirth of African American culture. Kwanzaa was truly about connecting with ancestors for African Americans, even if those ancestors and what they had wanted to pass down were unknown. If African Americans had not revived their culture, they would have been stuck celebrating a tradition passed down to them by whites, creating tradition and culture that they could not necessarily connect to or feel special about.

In the modern day society, the holiday season has nothing to do with religion, spirituality, and important messages to many people as well. People now seize the opportunity of the holiday season to connect with things that they are interested in and are an important part of their lives.

Today, December 23, 2014, is Festivus, an “unholy holiday” celebrated by Seinfeld fans everywhere.


Introduction of Festivus in an episode of Seinfeld


The holiday is mentioned jokingly in the show by a person criticizing Christmas, and people in real life, who could both connect to the show and personally to the criticisms, celebrate it, also partially as a joke.


This holiday was also born out of lack of connection and interest in holidays like Christmas. People like the director of Seinfeld believed that there should be a “holiday for the rest of us”( Festivus’ tagline), the people who Christmas isn’t special to, the people whose traditions have lost their magic and lost their sense of passion and connection.

These strong ties between generations surely must wear out some day, for some people, won’t they?

Maybe they only partially wear out, such as when a bride and groom with different traditions and customs combine their customs. This case offers a much more rich connection for the people who receive this rare culture as it it passed down, but may not fully satisfy either tradition.

And when they do, the people must find something that they feel more passionate about, that they really connect with, and integrate it into their lives, and pass it on.

This is the spirit of Tradition, except with a twist not always perceived. Tradition may not always last forever. Sometimes, connections to previous celebrations do not want to be made. And sometimes, the magic of tradition loses its relevance, or is overcome by another,stronger bringer of joy.

But as long as it lasts, generations will remain bound, and joy, will subsist and strengthen.

Happy Holidays!


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