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1. Christianity a doctrine or body of doctrines regarded as having been established by Christ or the apostles though not contained in Scripture
2. Judaism a body of laws regarded as having been handed down from Moses orally and only committed to writing in the 2nd century ad
3. the beliefs and customs of Islam supplementing the Koran, esp as embodied in the Sunna
4. Law, chiefly Roman and Scots the act of formally transferring ownership of movable property; delivery
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the totality of writings regarded by the Orthodox and Catholic churches as “divinely inspired” and second only to Scripture in significance. Tradition is distinct from Scripture and is so named because some of its works were, according to church teaching, originally transmitted orally by the Apostles and committed to writing only later. Tradition includes The Creed and The Apostolic Canons, decisions of ecumenical and some local church councils, and certain works of the church fathers. The works that constitute tradition differ for the Orthodox and the Catholic churches; in particular, papal decretals occupy a large place in the Catholic Church.

By attributing the force of “divine right” to tradition, the church is able to sanction practical measures and norms that are dictated by changing historical circumstances and that cannot be justified by Scripture and thus to establish them as immutable; examples are the universal Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility.

In Judaism the Talmud plays a role analogous to that of tradition, as does the sunna in Islam.



a part of the social and cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation and preserved over an extended period in a given society, class, or social group; the process and methods by which a society’s heritage of material and nonmaterial wealth is transmitted. Such traditional elements include certain social institutions, norms of behavior, values, beliefs, customs, and rituals.

Tradition is not limited to its most stereotyped manifestations, such as customs and rituals; rather, it extends over a much wider range of social phenomena. All social systems have specific traditions that to a certain extent condition their functioning. The influence of tradition is most pervasive in the precapitalist social formations. While the most diverse spheres of social life—such as economics, politics, and law—have their own characteristic traditions, the latter’s influence varies in degree from one sphere to another. The weight of tradition is greatest in the religious sphere. In the arts and sciences, too, traditions play a distinct part.

Class societies are characterized by class traditions. On the one hand, class differentiation has a significant effect on each nation’s cultural heritage; on the other hand, each class and social group is marked by its own traditions. Hence the multiplicity of conflicting traditions and conflicting attitudes toward them. While each generation is necessarily the recipient of a set of traditions, it also chooses among them to some extent; in this sense each generation chooses not only its own future but its own past as well. The persistence of a given tradition over time does not of itself determine its import in modern life; to be viable, a tradition must be continuously developed by succeeding generations under changing historical circumstances. Each society, class, or group, accepting certain components of the social heritage, at the same time rejects others. Traditions may therefore be classified as positive or negative, depending on whether and to what extent they are accepted or rejected.

From the Marxist point of view, the role of tradition must be evaluated selectively. Blind obedience to tradition gives rise to conservatism and the stagnation of society; on the other hand, a contemptuous attitude toward the social heritage may lead to the breakdown of social and cultural continuity and the loss of valuable human achievements. Under socialism, the progressive values of the past and the traditions of the revolution, labor, and patriotism are preserved and promoted in conjunction with the struggle against reactionary and obsolete traditions and against inertia and routine.


Tradition is an essential component of literature and the arts. In the early stages of artistic evolution, traditions are transmitted by and gain strength through the collective creative process, as in the case of the primitive art and folklore—the “traditional” art—of the peoples of Africa, Australia, and Oceania and of the American Indians. At subsequent stages, as they undergo constant renewal, traditions are handed down directly through formal education and the succession of trends and currents that arise within a common social and cultural milieu. Art, although far removed in time and space, may nevertheless become the carrier of a living tradition. Such traditions sometimes have a more significant effect than those transmitted directly; some examples are the influence of ancient art on classicism, of Shakespeare’s and Calderón’s works on the romantic writers, of Japanese engravings on the impressionists, and of 17th- and 18th-century music on the neoclassical composers of the 20th century.

A typical trait of imitative art is its stubborn conformity to obsolete and nonviable traditions. Innovative art does not merely consist in breaking away from traditions and establishing non-traditional artistic principles; as a rule, such art also adopts and reinterprets other traditions that are relevant to the given circumstances. A new tradition is thus created and subsequently handed down. In the art of socialist realism, innovation coexists harmoniously with reliance on the classical heritage and the progressive traditions of national and world culture.


Marx, K. Vosemnadtsatoe Briumera Lui Bonaparta. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8.
Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva. Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “O natsional’noi gordosti velikorossov.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26.
Lenin, V. I. “Ot kakogo nasledstva my otkazyvaemsia?” Ibid., vol. 2.
Sarsenbaev, N. S. Obychai, traditsii i obshchestvennaia zhizn. Alma-Ata, 1974.
Szacki, J. Tradycja: Przegladproblematyki. Warsaw, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Folksong Weekly started to publish a handful of treatises on dialect and folk customs, including eighteen special issues and eleven on solicited topics such as Fangyan biaoyin (Phonetic Notation for Dialects, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), Flunyin (Marriage, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [four issues], Kanjian ta (Seeing Her, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [two issues], Meng Jiang nil (Lady Meng Jiang, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [nine issues], and so on.
"With his passing, the Mari Lwyd became central to my work, but quickly slipped the tether of its folk custom origins, metamorphosing into something less corporeal."
The long history and rich folk customs endow the winter tourism in Heilongjiang with profound cultural foundation.
Under the red-tiled roofs of Ohrid, old folk customs are still practised.
Folk customs have inevitably been incorporated in the rituals to honor Ina, such as the traslacion that approximates the tumultuous January procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila, a heaving sea of men dressed in purple and fighting for the privilege of pulling on the rope that tows the carriage bearing the image of the suffering Christ to and from Quiapo Church.
The local could be translated to the national both because of the "recodability and mutability of photographic meanings" in different contexts and configurations, and because of an increasing "nationalization of provincial cultures in the 1890s" as folk customs and literary landscapes were incorporated into a "vision of the national past" (148).
The Chairman said that Pakistan has tremendous tourism potential with diversified culture, rich in folk customs and traditions, archeological sites, variety of landscape, and preserved sites of centuries old civilization.
And Sarah Dunnigan perspicuously examines the impact of Scottish and Irish fairy- and folktale collections (particularly by Walter Scott and Thomas Crofton Croker) on the Grimm brothers, who then adapted the 'idea of Scotland' into a more comprehensive version of how folk customs forge a legacy in the modern world.
* The Barley Mow (E) Compilation from the BFI National Archive, exploring British folk customs and traditions from well-dressing to Morris dancing.
Verbal and nonverbal folklore includes various forms of expression, including the finger plays of children's games, social and folk customs and traditions surrounding celebrations, a range of folk art from folk dance to the folk craft of wood carving and needlework, and even architectural structures and their decoration.
Chamosa (history, University of Georgia) weaves a complicated tapestry of the uses made by the Argentinean elite of Criollo (mestizo) folk customs: music, dance and stories.
In the book she writes: "These brutal folk customs left me speechless, yet I still wanted to know whether these mothers for whom it was common practice really smothered their daughters as casually as they ate a meal or threw away a piece of rotten fruit".