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Family Traditions?


How important is it to honor and practice the traditions of my parents? My father passed away over a decade ago and my mother is recently in her 90’s. They were very religious people with some very strict traditions. They are also second-generation immigrants with strong ties to the customs of the country they came from.

I am more American in my beliefs and ways. My wife’s family is not from the same cultural background as my family. I want to honor my parents and who they were, but I do not know how important it is to follow their ways so closely. There is a part of me that wonders if I am dishonoring their memory by going down my own path and letting go of who they were. 

How important is it to hold onto their past traditions versus forging my own path?


It is not unusual for a third generation American to be less observant of the customs their parents followed. Your ties to the country your grandparents came from are far weaker than for your parents who may even have lived in a home where even English was a second language. When your grandparents came to America for opportunity, they brought with them the lifestyle and customs of the country they came from; often eating, worshipping, and living day-to-day much like they did in the past even while in America.

You were born of parents who were schooled in this country. They may have been the interpreters for their parents. If they lived in a community with other immigrant families the neighborhood helped to make the transition to America easier for them. They still though entered the world of school and work daily, where they interacted with other cultures and adapted to other cultures and ideas. 

Now enter your generation. Your household has two cultural stories, yours, and your wife’s.  Your family represents the melting pot that is America. You have likely been exposed to more cultures, foods, ideas, education, and opportunity than even your parents. It is only natural that your lifestyle will reflect your experiences.

With all that said, now specifically to your question about how important it is to hold on to traditions.  Traditions tie us to our ancestors and help us to remember. They also help to connect us to other family members who are observing some of the same traditions. It need not be every routine, food, observation, or ritual that your parents observed, to serve as a connection. Retaining some of the past while forging into the future is a reasonable approach. It is fine to observe some but not all your parents’ observations. Do hold and observe those that have meaning for you.  They can be a source of comfort and remembrance. By practicing at least some of your cultural heritage you are passing on the stories and history of your family to your children. So frequently, we long for the stories and history of our family when it is no longer available. Do your best to keep alive the story of your families in whatever way that is comfortable for you, as that is not something you will regret later.


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