Why Bother With Tradition


Do you remember in the movie, Fiddler on the Roof,
what Tevye says about tradition? He says: ‘How do we keep our balance? That, I can tell you in one word – tradition! Because of our traditions we’ve kept our balance for many many years. … Because of our traditions every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do…. Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as … as.. as a fiddler on the roof!’

What are Our Traditions?

The Western world is soaked in Christian tradition.  Most of our holidays and feast days stem from Christian celebrations and feasts.   Some of our feasts are  set firmly on certain days of the year.  For example, Christmas is always celebrated on 25 December.  Other feasts change from year to year and these are called moveable feasts. Easter is a good example of a moveable feast because it is on a different date each year.

When is Easter?

The date for Easter is calculated by the moon. Easter Sunday usually follows the first full moon after the equinox. Then all other dates work from there: Shrove Tuesday is 47 days before Easter, Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter, etc.

Why is it important?

What is the point of these dates and why do they matter to us in our post-modern, post-Christian society? Many denominations don’t know about or celebrate these feasts, because they are seen as being irrelevant and old-religion. But these dates have value because they help to define us and they are our heritage. They are our traditions. And for me, it’s important to pass on these traditions as so many of them are slipping away and being lost.


Lent is the forty days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter Sunday. It’s observed by Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Traditionally, this is a time for Christians to prepare for the celebration of Easter.

Shrove Tuesday, also called Pancake Tuesday is the last day before Lent starts. It’s the day that traditionally people would use up ingredients that they fasted from during Lent. Pancakes were good because they used up the eggs. In France this day is called ‘Mardi Gras’ (fat Tuesday – guess why). In 2012 Lent started on Wednesday 22 Feb.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent . It gets its name from the practice of marking the forehead with ashes in a sign of a cross. It marks the start of forty days of preparation for Easter. Jesus spent forty days in the desert. It rained for forty days in the flood. Moses was on the mountain for forty days. There are lots of ’40 day’ references in the Bible.

This year I am doing a Lenten devotional called “Lent For Everyone” by Tom Wright. I was impressed and encouraged by it from the very first page – easy to read, rich, informative and Jesus-focused.

I also found this website with lots of articles which you might like: http://www.umc.org/resources/lent-and-easter-resources

Lent for children

With children it’s much easier to prepare for Christmas with lots of books and activities, and an easier story to tell. For Lent you have to look harder and dig a bit deeper to provide a rich spiritual experience at a suitable emotional level. I did find this website which has ideas for children: http://www.sundayschoolkids.com/menu-lent-resources.htm

If you have other sites or ideas, I’d love to hear about them.

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