Pi Attitude Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion

Making Up Traditions Is One Of Our Traditions

Much of human life, and the meaning we give to it, revolves around traditions.  But sometimes humanity needs more traditions than it actually has.  So we invent some.

Take public holidays and national festivals.  Surely they have been there since time immemorial, no?  Actually not so much.  US Independence Day was invented as recently as 1870, and France’s Bastille Day didn’t exist until 1880.  Labor Day was plucked out of thin air in 1894, two years after festival-hungry Americans invented Columbus Day (in 1892, four hundred years after the event it celebrates).  The list goes on.

Pageantry has often been invented to go along with the “traditions” societies invented as they went along.  Britain’s military rituals, like the Trooping of the Color?  Invented.  Scotland’s clan tartans and sporrans, not to mention “traditional” sports like sword-dancing and tossing the caber?  Invented.  (The clan tartans for kilts were woven to order in Britain’s Indian colonies).

Even the Olympic Torch and other neo-classical “traditions” that seem to define the Olympic Games… were all invented. 

One big reason why these secular rituals capture the public imagination and come to seem “eternal” and “like they’ve been there forever” is that they work gangbusters at a commercial level.  They reinforce the sense of national character, encourage tourism, and get people to open their pocketbooks by spuriously appealing to their national pride and patriotic feeling.  The cleverest of them actually gather to themselves an aura of almost tribal authenticity.

What’s not to like about a national festival, anyway?  And if you like it that much, you start thinking that believing in such things is a matter of loyalty to your culture, creed and nation.

Pi says:  what inventive creatures we humans be.  And how remarkably quickly we come to believe in our own inventions…

Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion Country: Multiple Geographies Product –