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In everyday conversation, a tradition means hardly more than a local custom or a little ritual which is consistently re-enacted by a particular group, and serves as a nexus or collecting-point of cherished memories, whether of people or places, special dates or well-loved practices.

Such a meaning is strong and sufficiently close to the origins of the word in the Latin verb whose past participle translates as ‘what is handed on’. This sense of tradition is, however, rather an inert one. Tradition becomes something from the past which is endlessly repeated but which does not discharge any of its energy into the present. By this token, to be a traditionalist (which everybody wants to be in some part of themselves) is simply to call up ...

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