English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I recently heard an advertisement proclaiming that Bar-B-Q was a tradition at a local bar/restaurant. This seemed a little ludicrous to us and we began discussing how many times a thing had to be done in a row before it was a tradition.

Is there a specific rule? Is three times enough? Does it have to be done for a generation at least?

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by z7sg Ѫ, Matt E. Эллен, Mitch, simchona, kiamlaluno Sep 18 '11 at 20:35

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is not a question of English language. – Matt E. Эллен Sep 18 '11 at 15:45
The answer is 3. Source: Alice's Restaurant - search for 'rehabilitated'. – Mitch Sep 18 '11 at 16:46
Enough times to get the SE badge. – Hugo Nov 22 '11 at 16:26

Personally, if I do a thing two years in a row on a certain occasion - such as watching the first sunrise of the new year - and expect to continue to do it, I call it a tradition.

This may be a lax definition of the term. However, I definitely don't think it has to be done for an entire generation to be called a tradition.

share|improve this answer

According to an online dictionary, the term tradition is defined as,

  1. The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way

    • every shade of color is fixed by tradition and governed by religious laws
  2. A long-established custom or belief that has been passed on in this way

    • Japan's unique cultural traditions
  3. An artistic or literary method or style established by an artist, writer, or movement, and subsequently followed by others

    • visionary works in the tradition of William Blake
  4. A doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures, in particular

  5. (in Christianity) Doctrine not explicit in the Bible but held to derive from the oral teaching of Jesus and the Apostles

  6. (in Judaism) An ordinance of the oral law not in the Torah but held to have been given by God to Moses

  7. (in Islam) A saying or act ascribed to the Prophet but not recorded in the Koran

Although custom is defined in a similar way, there is no mention of the practice being long standing, nor of it being handed down from generation to generation.

share|improve this answer

"Family tradition" is less strict than the general "cultural tradition." It's not implausible that a local family-owned restaurant is trying to invoke the first meaning.

share|improve this answer

A wise friend told me that if you do something 20 times it becomes a habit(tradition). That sounds about right to me. I've done it, and it works.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.