Why Are Cultural Traditions Important?

Partha Sarathi Sahana/CC-BY 2.0

Cultural traditions are important because they transmit shared values, stories and goals from one generation to the next. Traditions encourage groups of people to create and share a collective identity, which in turn serves to shape individual identities.

Cultural traditions are expressions of a particular group’s worldview, and they help people in that group mark significant occasions or life transitions. In many cultures, for example, it is common to celebrate the transition between childhood and adulthood. That celebration could take the form of a quinceañera, a Latin American tradition celebrating a girl’s transition into womanhood, or it may be an Australian aboriginal walkabout, when a young man undertakes a long journey through the Australian bush. The specific type of tradition may have a deep and lasting impact on how that young person sees himself in the future.

Cultural traditions also function to strengthen a sense of community. In the United States, Thanksgiving is a national holiday during which families gather together to share a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Similarly, the Christmas holiday is usually a time when families spend time together. These cultural traditions, along with other factors, help to reinforce and maintain what it means to be American