How does a tradition become tradition? Repetition seems the most obvious answer. Yet during this time of the year, when traditions can be as small as drinking a special kind of hot drink or as huge and ancient as a millennia old holiday, it does provoke thoughts of why some customs persist. Winter holidays have been around as far back as human records go. That one is a bit of a no-brainer for anyone who has lived through a northern winter – when everything seems dark and dreary and dead, sometimes the only thing to do is light a lot of candles and laugh for a change. From the Roman’s Saturnalia, to the European Yule that became Christmas, to Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights; take your pick. People need a light to cling to in dark times.

Religion is a powerful conduit as well. Stories, traditions, prayers, rituals – so much is kept and passed down, taken in and remade with each generation that it’s almost staggering. Whether religious holidays became traditional because of religion, or whether people found religion in a long enduring tradition, is a chicken and egg debate I’m not quite prepared to get into.

Even those reasons can’t quite explain everything. They may answer for the big ceremonies, but not for the tiny traditions like trying to shatter the ice on a pond as soon as it freezes over, watching old movies on snow days or going for a walk and kicking up leaves on Thanksgiving.

It could be that there is no answer. It could be that some things just happen for no particular reason. Maybe people just do things because they’re fun and then make them habitual.

On the other hand, I never met my great-grandmother. She died when I was far too young to remember, so the only tangible proof I have that she even existed is a few old black and white photographs of a severe looking woman.

I never met her and I don’t know much about her, but I’ve eaten crepes made with her recipe more times than I can count. For special occasions, for Sundays, for whenever there is enough time in the morning to make and enjoy them. They’re probably going to be made again several more times before this winter is out. It’s tradition, after all.

— Nina Collay is a junior at Thornton Academy who can frequently be found listening to music, reading, wrestling with a heavy cello case, or poking at the keyboard of an uncooperative laptop.

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