Tradition, Tradition

Folks in our town often have an interesting mentality. Hint: sometimes antiquated, backward, impractical, and unrealistic. Which often comes as a surprise to us.

Because they are in many ways a practical and down-to-earth people. Which probably stems from Italy’s odd mix of old and new. An ancient land of timeless monuments, producing the Ferrari, the Lamborghini, and the world’s latest fashions. And while proud of these achievements, Italians love and tenaciously cling to their traditions. 

Like with their love of fireplaces. It’s not just that they love them, as many people do. But they have totally convinced themselves that the fireplace heats their home. And back when homes first had them, they probably did. A home with a fireplace does stay warmer than one with no heat, for sure.

But by our modern-day standards, fireplaces don’t heat houses! Perhaps we’ve just become too spoiled and pampered. But I for one, like a certain amount of comfort. Especially warmth!

Most homes in our town have a fireplace, kept burning all winter.

As an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, my husband goes into many student’s homes – to sit and shiver. And when he keeps his coat on, inevitably gets asked, “Don’t tell me you’re cold! We’ve got the fire going!” As though it were the height of modern heating!

We all know fireplaces warm only what’s right next to them. Snuggle up to them, and you’ll get warm — on one side! But nothing will convince these dear folk that fireplaces don’t heat. Or that, though enjoyable, are terrible money-wasters!

Our neighbors just got a new pile of firewood. Which, according to Hubby, will last about 10 days. Wow! €160 for only ten days! And that’s not all. They also turn the central heat on in the evening, to warm the bedrooms. That’s a lot of money trying to keep warm! Trying, because their house is never really warm.

Which is why I’m so grateful for our pellet stove. Our old house (between 200-250 years old) has never had a heating system. The elderly man who lived here also roasted himself, one side at a time, by the fire.

But we like heat. Staying warm, and spending little is one of our priorities! Our little stove was both cheaper and easier to install than central heating. And since pellets are actually the cheapest way to heat here in Italy, we usually only spend around €400 per winter. But unlike our neighbors, have a truly warm house!! Plus they’re ecological — and that warms my heart as well!

But back to our paesani (townsfolk)…

Most of them still stick to their fireplaces. Even after seeing how much warmer our house is and how little we spend. They still respond, “Ah, but the fireplace… it’s wonderful!” Especially the older folks, who say it keeps them company. And I get that, as it does give them something to tend to. But I think it’s more a matter of nostalgia, taking them back to childhood memories and good times. While also keeping age long family traditions alive.

But is tradition worth it? When it costs a fortune and isn’t really working?

That’s not a mentality I really understand. I certainly don’t plan to freeze, if I can help it. We were always too cold in our early years here, and I love our new warmth!

Yet, don’t we all cling to tradition in some ways?

Like cooking our favorite meals over and over, or always buying the same brands. Or our own family’s tradition of pasta with red sauce every Sunday. In these little ways, tradition can bring ease and/or comfort.

But sitting around cold, simply because it’s “what we’ve always done”? Or refusing to abandon harmful old wives’ tales like “don’t get any fresh air at all when you’re sick.” These seem senseless, and sometimes even unwise.

Tradition, while lovely and enriching, can also steal our wonder.

Each new day is different. And if we but look for it, each has something beautiful and special to offer. We just need to look for it!

[Image ©TheScorziellos]


12 thoughts on “Tradition, Tradition”

  1. Great post, and great point! I was so stuck in tradition regarding holidays and things we used to do. When there was a religious divide in the family, holidays took a turn, and I found myself wanting to spend Christmas with the in-laws in Wisconsin. So, the last 2 Christmas’s we have done just that. No white elephant exchange on Christmas Eve, putting baby Jesus in the manger while singing Silent Night, etc. (Of course I have grown in my faith and realize Jesus wasn’t born around Christmas).

    I’ll admit. It was tough at first. His family doesn’t “do” gifts, and well, I am used to at least opening presents Christmas morning with my mom and hubby (we lived with her the first year of marriage). After all, “gifts” is my love language, lol. His family has made some adjustments in that respect for me though. We actually drew names last year, but I still bought everyone something because it’s what I love to do. It is hard breaking tradition when you have been doing it for so long. My husband always hated tradition for the very reasons you explained. He says that it creates expectation, and when it doesn’t happen, ruins everything. Im getting better though. I no longer even desire to do the adult egg hunt on Resurrection Day (I won’t get into why). In fact, my family didn’t even get together this year. We used to have a great time and come together, hold hands and sing Don Fransisco’s “He’s Alive.” But it’s okay. Things change and we have to be okay with it. Blessings to you!


    1. Wow Jennifer, that was a lot of changing! And it’s true, change can be tough. In looking back at our early years here (because I believe few things change us like living in another culture), so many things “back then” were hard, and I mean HARD to accept. But now when I look back, I just see how much I gained. My life is enriched in ways I could have never imagined! And I think that’s the beauty of what God does through change. First he teaches us to accept, then understand, and finally embrace it. And once we do that, the floodgates open letting in so many new and wonderful experiences, ideas, and memories. Blessings to you, too, Jennifer, and I pray that God may enrich your life through all the newness he’s bringing!! Have a great April day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you friend! And yes, change can be tough. I was in the Navy 5 1/2 years so I had to face A LOT of change. But yes, God does a lot in us through change. For that, I am most thankful. 💞


    2. I just got to thinking too, Jennifer, your husband really hit the nail with saying that tradition often creates expectation. And when it doesn’t happen, it ruins everything. I’ve done this so many times in my life. As a child, hoping for that one (impossible) Christmas gift. In marriage, thinking my husband would never let me down, when he is but human. And even with people. And then when they didn’t stay in my little boxes, I would get upset. That side of tradition is definitely negative!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so right: “Tradition is lovely and enriching. But it can also hold us back from experiencing all the new and from feeling the music under our feet!” Lord, help me honor tradition while embracing the new. Love that Thomas Merton quote, too. Thank you, Sheila!


    1. Thank you Nancy! I guess the secret is holding on the good, while letting all that hinders go. I’m with Thomas Merton. I want to feel music, and sense to the fullest all the beauty…all while holding to the goodness tradition often is! Hope you feel lots of music today!


  3. I hope we never loose our cultural traditions. As technology progresses we seem to forget the simple things. Such as togetherness family groupings, the things we had taken for granted now we wish we had back


    1. So true, Kayaker! Tradition is wonderful, and in most ways we love that Italy does cling to theirs! There is much that is reassuring and peaceful about it. Family life and sense of community are very strong here. But sometimes their old-fashioned ways can aggravate us too! lol!

      Liked by 1 person

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