Customs vs Traditions
All cultures and societies of the world have their unique customs and traditions that have evolved over a long period of time. Every society devises ways to maintain peace and order among its people and also to serve as a guide for interaction between the members of the society. Many people talk about customs and traditions as if they are one and the same thing. This is because of the fact that the two terms are used in the same breath and also because dictionaries treat them as similar meaning words. However, there are subtle differences between traditions and customs that will be highlighted in this article.
Practices that are followed by many people in a society or culture are termed as customs. Welcoming tourists from other countries by garlanding them and applying Tilaka or Tika on their foreheads is an Indian custom known all over the world. Similarly, folding both hands and holding them close to one’s chest while greeting a friend or acquaintance is also an Indian custom that is famous worldwide. Marriage is a social institution that is common all over the world but, in different societies and cultures, there are specific practices that are unique to those cultures only and are performed during marriage ceremonies.
Customs are social practices that are common and are followed by most people in a society. There are customs that are individual and family based. Once a practice that a father indulges in is practiced by his son, it qualifies to become a custom. Then there are also local customs that are followed over a particular area only.
The most common and universal custom is that of shaking hands with people when a person is meeting them for the first time.
The word tradition comes from a Latin word that means to deliver. This meaning is a clue as to what a tradition means. It is a custom that is handed over by a generation to the coming generation and one that has been passed down over successive generations. A religious or social custom that has been passed down over generations becomes a tradition. It seems that customs slowly and gradually take the shape of traditions as they continue to be handed down the generations.
What is the difference between Customs and Traditions?
• Traditions and customs are beliefs and practices that have evolved over a period of time and the only difference between a custom and a tradition seems to be the length of time and observance by a larger section of the society.
• A tradition is a practice that has been passed down over generations and observed by most people of a society or culture while custom could be short lived and even observed at a family or individual level.
• Also, while all traditions could qualify as customs, not all customs can be referred to as traditions. There is no clear cut definition of the word custom though tradition is certainly a belief or practice that has been passed over generations.