customs_and_traditions

Customs and Traditions

(Topics: Society & Culture | Back to Home)

In March of 2005 I was in Jerez de la Frontera, in southern Spain. I was there for Semana Santa, the Holy Week, a festival that is practiced throughout the country. There are all kinds of parades and costumes and various other traditions. People have been doing this for generations, with outfits and pointy hats and music. And if you're not from around there, well, it can all seem a little strange.

Culture is what we do because we did it before and other people did it before us. That's it. Sometimes, the way people lived seems unreal [1]. At other times, we feel nostalgic for how things used to be. Or it could be a great/terrible idea, depending on your perspective [2]. But no matter our emotional reaction, we should note that the current culture is not a natural law. We can choose any set of norms we want to.

“The most dangerous phrase in the English language is 'we have always done it this way.'” –Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Because culture is what we did before because people before them did that, it can be changed. And often, it is arbitrary. Men used to have long hair, then they had short hair, and now long hair is popular again. We all got into craft beer, and then it was artisan cupcakes, and now we are apparently all getting our meals sent to us in boxes from Internet startups.

Whenever there is a change in the norm about how people are behaving, I believe that almost always this is only an aspect of culture and tradition. It's not fundamental to the human experience. It's just the way we have been doing things.

And that way can change.


[1] Such as, dueling.

[2] Like the siesta, which is fading.


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