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Customs vs. Traditions: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 5, 2023
Customs are established practices or behaviors in a society, while traditions are customs passed down through generations.

Key Differences

Customs refer to accepted or expected ways of behaving or doing things in a society, often reflecting its current values and norms. Traditions, in contrast, are customs that have been handed down from generation to generation, embodying historical and cultural heritage.
Customs often evolve and adapt to changing societal conditions and are more flexible, whereas traditions are more rigid, preserving the practices and beliefs of the past. Both customs and traditions play vital roles in shaping a society's identity.
Customs can include everyday practices and social etiquette, shaping interactions and societal expectations. Traditions, on the other hand, are often linked to significant events, rituals, or celebrations and are deeply rooted in a community's history.
Customs may vary widely within different groups of a society, reflecting diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. Traditions, however, tend to be more universally recognized within a culture, reinforcing a sense of belonging and continuity.
Customs can be seen in practices like dining etiquette or business protocols, highlighting societal norms. Traditions encompass practices like holiday celebrations or wedding ceremonies, showcasing cultural continuity.

Comparison Chart


Socially accepted ways of behavior
Long-established customs passed down


More adaptable to societal changes
Generally rigid and unchanging


Reflect current societal values
Connect to historical and cultural heritage


Can vary within different societal groups
More uniform within a cultural group


Greeting customs, dress codes
Festivals, religious ceremonies

Customs and Traditions Definitions


Customs are common practices or conventions in a society.
It's a local custom to greet with a bow instead of a handshake.


Traditions are rituals or beliefs with historical significance.
The tradition of lighting candles on Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.


Customs can be daily habits or routines in a community.
The custom of having afternoon tea is deeply ingrained in British culture.


Traditions are practices that reinforce cultural identity.
Wearing traditional attire during festivals is a cherished tradition.


Customs are established ways of acting in specific situations.
In our office, the custom is to dress formally for client meetings.


Traditions are long-standing practices passed through generations.
Our family tradition includes gathering for a meal every Sunday.


Customs are societal norms guiding behavior and interactions.
As per local customs, gifts are exchanged during the New Year.


Traditions often commemorate cultural or religious events.
It's a tradition in our town to host a parade on Independence Day.


Customs can also refer to official regulations at borders.
You must declare certain items at customs when traveling internationally.


Traditions include storytelling and folklore of a culture.
Storytelling is an age-old tradition that preserves our ancestral tales.


A traditional practice or usual way of doing something followed by a social group or people.


The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication
Cultural practices that are preserved by tradition.


The tradition or body of such practices
The respect that is by custom accorded to the king.


A mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation; a custom or usage
The traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.


A set of such customs and usages viewed as a coherent body of precedents influencing the present
Followed family tradition in dress and manners.


A precept or a body of precepts that are not written in the sacred book of a religion, such as the Bible, but are considered holy or true.


A style or method of an activity or practice, especially of artistic expression, that is recognized and sometimes imitated
Satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift.


A piece of folklore
"a popular medieval tradition that identified the queen of Sheba with the Blessed Virgin Mary" (Nicholas Clapp).


Plural of tradition


Can customs vary within a country?

Yes, customs can differ widely within different regions or groups.

How do customs evolve?

Customs evolve with societal changes and can adapt over time.

What are customs?

Customs are established ways of behavior or practices in a society.

What are traditions?

Traditions are customs and beliefs passed down through generations.

Can a new custom become a tradition?

A new custom can evolve into a tradition if it's passed down over time.

What is an example of a custom?

A custom example is shaking hands when meeting someone.

Are traditions specific to cultures?

Traditions are often specific and unique to each culture.

Do customs influence daily life?

Yes, customs influence everyday behavior and social interactions.

How are traditions preserved?

Traditions are preserved through practice and teaching to new generations.

How do customs reflect a society?

Customs reflect current societal values, norms, and conditions.

Why are traditions important to cultural identity?

Traditions maintain a sense of history and belonging in a culture.

Are traditions changeable?

Traditions are generally more rigid and less prone to change.

Do customs have legal standing?

Some customs may be codified into law, but not all.

How are traditions passed down?

Traditions are passed down orally, through practice, and in written forms.

Can customs conflict with laws?

Sometimes customs can conflict with laws, leading to societal debates.

What role do traditions play in society?

Traditions help in preserving cultural heritage and identity.

What is an example of a tradition?

An example of a tradition is celebrating national holidays.

How do individuals learn customs?

Customs are learned through socialization and interaction in society.

What happens when traditions are lost?

The loss of traditions can lead to a weakening of cultural identity.

Are traditions always related to religion?

Traditions can be religious, but many are secular.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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