This article started with an innocuous question:
“Hey kids, do you think we should still do our Easter egg-rolling competition this year?”
My spring traditions
The word ‘tradition’ always invokes mixed feelings for me. Growing up, I could never enjoy the cliche of spring cleaning on the first day of the Easter holidays, and nor did I particularly enjoy going to church every Sunday when all I wanted to do was play sports. On the other hand, I will still watch the Grand National (always on the first Saturday in April) placing a bet on several horses based on whether I like their names; I will put on the London Marathon on the TV and then not watch it; I send my mum a card on Mother’s Day whether she likes it or not; I will eat lots of toasted Hot Cross Buns; and I will want to watch the Eurovision Song Contest with champagne and chip shop chips. I find the House of Lords to be a ridiculous institution full of outdated traditions and people, but at the same time, I voluntarily wore the uniform of the British Army and was happy to swear my allegiance to the crown. Go figure.
We live our lives filled with wild contradictions, says anthropologist David Berliner. I can certainly attest to that.
Some of the traditions I have experienced thankfully no longer exist (including a few sporting and military inductions that have disappeared for all the right reasons) or they have evolved with time and context. I am also reminded that traditions, by nature, have been a historical enabler for perpetuating the privilege of elites, institutional racism, misogyny, and a safe haven for some of the worst DEIJ practices we still find thriving in our local and international communities. So when someone insists that “we have to preserve our traditions” I’m always a bit sceptical and sensitive. Do people actually mean that their traditions should be perfectly preserved at all costs? I’m more of an “evolve or die” person myself…
Egg rolling, anyone?
Ok, let’s start with last week’s fiasco. I asked my kids if they thought they might be too old now for our family Easter Sunday egg rolling competition. There was a brief silence before the outpouring of outrage at this preposterous idea. I have no idea when rolling a painted, hard-boiled egg down a wooden ramp become so important? Sure, it was fun when the kids were toddlers and we were looking for ways to entertain them. But when had I missed the fact that it had become so much more than that? Looking back, I can see some of the signs – the honour board, the agreed 5 (now 10) “golden egg” rules (on the use of colours, the starting position of the egg on the ramp, on the order of egg selection etc…) and all that trash-talking ahead of the competition. These have all evolved slowly over the years, with rules adapted to settle disputes and brazen cheating (often by me I think), without any of us really noticing or really caring. Until. Until I asked that question.
Indeed, it wasn’t until the moment when I questioned its importance that I realized how much it meant to my folk. It wasn’t just about rolling eggs down a ramp, or the idiosyncratic randomness of the rules, it was about coming together as a family, carrying on a tradition, and creating memories that we would cherish for years to come. It was about the laughter, the excitement, and the friendly competition. It was about the sense of belonging and connection that it brought to our family.
So it looks like we are stuck with the Egg Rolling. Happily stuck I might add. And that’s the thing about traditions. They may start off as small, insignificant things, but over time they become woven into the fabric of our lives.
The Grand Walk
This is true not only in families but also in schools. Every school has its own unique traditions, from graduation ceremonies to Spirt Days to community events. These traditions are not just about having fun, but also about building a sense of community and belonging. All the good stuff.
This brings me to events that unfolded this week at school. After the egg-rolling, I really should have expected it…
You see, we proposed a load of changes to the final Celebration Day for our graduating class. This is the final day our graduates are formally in school before they commence their pre-exam study leave. Over the last 10 years that the school has been established, this has involved a schedule of “pranks”, final assemblies, parent “pot-luck” lunches, and then the big finale – The Grand Walk – where the graduating class is clapped and cheered by the whole school as they complete a final lap of the school campus, visiting old classrooms, teachers, and haunts. The whole school is involved and it manages to bring a tear to even the most hardened teacher’s eye.
The graduates see a little bit of themselves in each little child that is cheering them, and the little children are in awe of the graduates – they know it will be their turn one day. They have become as invested in this tradition as each of the graduates.
But. But we changed the format during COVID because we had to. And because it went so well we just thought that we would do the same again this year. We kept it streamlined, we kept out a couple of things from the usual schedule, and then we shared it with the community. However, instead of being excited, the graduating class were not happy. They saw it as a departure from tradition, with some feeling that they were being “short-changed”.
I think this was really a reminder of the power of traditions. We had not appreciated that somewhere along the way, this event had evolved and been elevated into a tradition: a tradition with a lot of meaning and emotion for our community. A tradition that needs to be nurtured, and treasured, and one that now belongs to our school community.
This experience made me reflect on the importance of traditions in schools, and how they contribute to building a strong school culture. Traditions give students a sense of identity and a feeling of belonging to something larger than themselves. They create a shared history and memories that bind students, teachers, and alumni together. And they also provide a sense of continuity, connecting the present with the past and the future.
But traditions are not set in stone, and they do evolve over time. It’s important to balance the need for change and innovation with the importance of maintaining the core values and meaning of the tradition. This requires listening to the voices of the community and being sensitive to the emotional connections that people have with the tradition.
Perhaps these traditions have become more important because they provide a sense of continuity and stability in a world that is constantly changing? Perhaps they remind us of where we came from and where we are going, connecting us to the past, the present, and the future?
So, whether it’s rolling eggs down a ramp or walking around a school campus, traditions matter. They are the way we connect, celebrate, and remember.
Sometimes you just gotta roll with it!
A huge shout out to Ted Cowan and Uzay Ashton – amazing colleagues who work so hard (every year) to give our graduating classes such a memorable send-off. Our treasured graduating traditions are the result of many, many years of your love, hard work and commitment. Thank you.
One thought on “Rolling with tradition”
Thank you for this message. It was very important to the grade 12s and their parents to go back to the traditional set up of the day and so nice that we were heard. Thursday was a special day for the students and I expect one they will treasure for years to come. Traditions are important and yes, they do and should evolve but not too quick.
Kind regards, Katja Baxter
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