Customs, Traditions and Rituals

The preparation and consumption of particular foods at a special occasion is a time honored tradition and custom. If this is occurs during a religious observance then it is considered to be all three: Tradition, Custom and Ritual.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | August 26, 2015

Customs, Traditions and Rituals: What is the Difference and Why do Children Need Them?

Customs, traditions and rituals were always an interesting topic in the Freehold Parents Anonymous Group that I attended. I learned from the other parents there how important those activities were to children. I also had a hard time understanding the difference so I made a note to myself and tucked it into a folder and found it while cleaning recently:

Customs: Habits; what we do in a specific circumstance.
• On my birthdays, my father turned me over his knee and smacked my bottom once for each year then pinched me saying “and a pinch to grow an inch”.
• When Mr. Ramirez was away on weekends for school, I picked up pizza or Chines take out and the girls and I relaxed, played games and watched movies.
• Instead of Christmas, we held a family sleepover every December 24th.
• During thunder storms, while we had the TV unplugged, the girls would take turns reading short stories to us.

Traditions: Handing down of beliefs, legends, information and customs.
• Immediate family members – aunts, uncles, cousins – all drew names to save money on gifts. Everyone still bought gifts for the grandparents and children.
• Spanking my daughters and pinching them the same as my father did makes this custom a tradition.
• I share stories with the girls that my grandparents told and they probably got some of those from their parents.
• Mr. Ramirez shared stories and legends he heard from his Peruvian relatives when everyone got together.

Christmas ornaments like this one are part of a ritual observance. The annual tree decorating is a time honored custom. This ornament may be a family tradition that is passed down to the eldest child.

Rituals: Long-set procedures for religious and other rites.
• Christmas was celebrated with a decorated tree, presents, going to church.
• As a child we received communion at our church believing the wine (grape juice) and unleavened bread to be the body and blood of Christ.

By having traditions in a family, children know what to expect from time to time; the participation in activities around family enriches the history with each generation. Children benefit from belonging to something bigger as in a piece of a jig saw puzzle.

Parents can start new customs and revive traditions at any time. Family traditions can be woven into holidays such as the family going out in the woods at Christmas to cut down a tree together. Here are a few customs and traditions that I’ve learned about in my Parents Anonymous Group and from others:

• A mother marks a daughter’s move into womanhood with a slap to the cheek on the start of her menstrual cycle “to bring the blood back to the cheeks”.
• A Philippine neighbor of mine keeps coins sprinkled along the walkway to her front door for good luck. The first time we visited her, Chelsey picked up all the coins and presented them to the woman who laughed and explained.
• Many parents do something special for children’s first day back to school. Before Katie and Chelsey went off to college, I used to treat myself once the children were in school with breakfast out and a book-shopping trip.
• For a time, I celebrated my birthday by sending flowers to my mother, until her death.
• Visitors new to a person’s house used to give the youngest child present a coin.
• A step father used to buy a special present for his step children.
• A family used to make their own molasses outdoors every fall. It was more than a chore, it was an annual event.
• Hiking a location on specific dates or holidays or taking a photograph at a particular time of year.

Across the country and around the world, most children take part in an annual, informal tradition of dressing in a favorite outfit to begin the new school year. Most carry new backpacks filled with new pencils, new notebooks and other new gear to symbolically mark a new beginning.

My cousin Tina says they make plates of cookies or candies to take to neighbors, especially senior citizens, for one time each season (4 times a year). They also stay for coffee or tea with some to visit for a while.
• My friend Ana’s grandmother served herb Louisa tea and homemade cookies for every birthday, Christmas and other important holidays. (Louisa tea is sold under several names, the most common being lemon verbena, and sold as loose leaves or tea bags.)
• Tina’s father made homemade ice cream every Sunday; something she misses since his death.
• Many open only one present the night before Christmas day or before going to church Christmas Eve night.
• June remembers helping her mother make “Sunday Sauce” with meat with a recipe she still uses today. Being of Italian descent, her family made their own sauce; she never heard of or tasted the commercial jarred sauce until late childhood.

These customs, traditions or rituals link one generation to the next and foster a certain social pride and family closeness. Parents are the ones to take the lead to begin these activities in a child’s life. What kind of customs, traditions or rituals do you know of?

PHOTO: Courtesy of Unsplash & Todd Quackenbush.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Scott Tucker Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Blau Under Flicker/CC License.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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7 Responses to Customs, Traditions and Rituals

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you so much, Jueseppi. You have no idea how much I appreciate your help.


      • I want to know about you the past few months, how are the girls, have you finally got the car running?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        The girls are doing well. They are hard at work; I’m so proud of them. 🙂 They are my sunshine.

        The car is coming along. I’m figuring out the different buttons but sometimes I long for the days when there were only a few gadgets and two pedals to learn.

        My only current complaint is the carpal tunnel. I never knew something could feel like this. I will be getting info next week about getting the surgery to fix it. The funny thing about pain is that you really appreciate it when nothing hurts. 😀


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you, Juesepppi. You are a kind soul. ❤


      • Tell me how you’ve been?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        Thank you for asking. I’m covered up with work and stay busy. I have picked up an accidental hobby you might think odd… I’ve been restoring old photographs of black folks in a group I’m in. I do not have permission to share the images or I would show you. The old portraits were badly damaged with cracks and chunks missing. The results is stunning. The people I’ve shown them to like the changes. I’ll see if I can send them by e-mail.

        So tell me what you’ve been up to. How is your personal life going? How is your vision? Do you ever get time off? I read your titles and a little about the stories. The world is in a mess; I’ve never seen so much hatred. I back off when it gets depressing. I remind myself that I am one person, I’m not wealthy and I am disabled. The good work will be left to you and other good souls to make change happen.

        I’m going to send that e-mail with the pictures so keep an eye out for it. Many hugs… Jackie


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