Is it Sinful to partake in these Family Traditions that seem to border on Paganism?


#1

I have never thought much of this before, but I feel the need to ask about it now. In my family we have two traditions that we like to do for certain occasions (I, currently, can not recall if there are more). Those traditions are eating noodles, spaghetti, pancit, or some other pasta on birthdays and “welcoming the New Year.”

BIRTHDAY PASTA
As long as I could remember, my parents always wanted everyone in the family to eat some form of pasta on birthdays. My parents say that eating pasta on birthdays will give you long life. The birthday person is not the only person who has to eat the pasta. Everyone in the family eats pasta on the birthday regardless of whose birthday it is and still receive long life. They also seem to believe this because they treat such a thing as important as attending mass on holy days of obligation. For example, there are days when I would still be in college at around dinner time and have to eat out. My parents would take the effort to always either call me or remind me to buy something pasta-related.

WELCOME, NEW YEAR
Every New Year, my mom would tell us to “welcome the New Year” by doing the following things. We would wear clothing that has many pockets and fill all those pockets with cash. We would light every light in the house. We would open every door in the house (and I think even some of the external doors as well). We would try to eat 12 grapes within the last 12 seconds of the New Year (we would be watching the CNN New Year special to help us count the seconds). We would also, either with instruments or our shouts, “welcome the New Year” with loud noises.

Now, I admit, I may over-analyze things sometimes. But I feel that this is a serious thing to bring up. I guess I could just ask my parents if these are pagan things we are doing, but I feel that I do not need to. Pardon me if I detract, but some members of my family do a lot of superstitious things that border on Paganism. One of my family members would knock on wood or some other hard surface and say “knock on wood” if one feels worried or concerned about something. Another member (or perhaps the same member) would buy and hang some decorations around the house that seem to be Pagan luck charms (Chinese amulets, Dreamcatchers, etc.). And it would not be the first time that I saw some members of my family partake in the rituals of other faiths.

If I may ask you all, are any of these things something I should be worried about? What should I do if they are? Should I not participate in any of these “family traditions?” Should I participate as long as I do not invest myself spiritually? Is there anything else you would like to suggest? I thank you all in advance.


#2

As long as you aren’t attaching any real significance to these things, I wouldn’t worry about it.


#3

:thumbsup:

I think you’re right when you say you tend to over-analyze. Think of them as family customs.


#4

I agree that the issue is the significance that you personally attach to what are family customs. Families tend to develop customs over the years and follow these slavishly. What matters for you is whether you attach superstitious power to these customs.


#5

I would worry more about about the good luck charms and amulets being hung around the house. Those are clearly superstitious, while (without any more information) the pasta things just seem like cute family customs that you’re family takes very seriously.


#6

Well.

My family tended to have a lot of traditions when I was growing up, most of which were related to our being of Polish ancestry.

My wife’s family really had none of any consequence. My MIL has such a disinterest in traditions that it seems to border on oppositionalism.

So while I would like to develop traditions with our new family, and maintain those from our past, it’s not really happening.

Bottom line: Embrace your family’s traditions. They’re part of what holds you together, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.


#7

First off, I thank you for this thread,
it has been something the Lord has
revealed to me thru contemplation,
What is bothering you is what’s called
intergenerational sins! Ask that all the
intergenerational sins be filtered thru
the Blood of Jesus! We may not fully
know WHY these things exist and why
your family perpetrates them, but they
exist, and when you humbly ask God
to help you discern what is chaff and
what is Okay, you will be SET FREE!!!


#8

I’d not say it is paganism. No need to start name calling, that’s not the right way to address this. It will take some setting of some ground rules in order for me to participate in these “family traditions”.

I’d make a statement to the others at the start of these that they are not superstitions because as Catholics we know that God as Trinity is our beginning, end, Savior, prayer granter, Grace giver, and protection against evil. Simply declare these things are just family fun.

If someone disagrees then state that they shouldn’t do them because they are going overboard on the power of these things and it would be wrong to do them in a superstitious way and insult God. Put the onus on them that they need to be in the right accord with God to be free to do these family traditions.

My vote was “OTHER”.


#9

The pasta thing sounds fine, like parents trying to make sure their kids eat something hearty on an important day, perhaps even in a ritual sense. It sounds completely fine and a good way for a family to stay in touch.

The News Years things sound completely fine.

As long as you’re not praying to or worshipping other gods, you aren’t engaged in paganism. Additionally, I think it’s safe to say that God looks on the intention of your heart. Even if there may be some superstitious elements in your family rituals or traditions, God knows what your intention is.

In a sense, being over-scrupulous regarding minor traditions and rituals–kissing under mistletoe, or counting in the New Year, or whatever–is itself a form of superstition: “If I do it wrong, bad things will happen.” In those types of situations, there is very little difference between trying to make things happen with your rituals and trying to prevent things from happening by refraining. Both are superstitious.

Just go with it and enjoy being a part of your family, until someone starts worshipping Baal. Then maybe refrain. If these issues continue to bother you, you should definitely bring it up with your parents, in a loving way. Obviously they see no harm in it, and are emotionally invested in making sure you eat your pasta, so if you must let them down, let them down gently.


#10

I wonder if this might not be a generational thing, as my mother was very similar about certain things which one might call “rituals,” like how to be kissed at bedtime, etc. Nothing bad, you understand, but just a very heavy emphasis on these little things. I always thought it was because of my mother’s family life being very disrupted in her childhood.

I just go along with this because it makes my mother happy and it doesn’t bother me at all. Just laugh and say, Oh, yes, Mom, I’m planning a huge spaghetti dinner so I’ll have many more birthdays!!!


#11

As long as you aren’t actually being superstitious about them (same for your family), it’s probably actually good since it’s an opportunity to bond with your family members.:slight_smile:


#12

I think it is possible to play along with these things, while making your personal objection to superstitions known (though not obnoxiously nor judgmentally).

Certainly there’s no harm in eating pasta, grapes, wearing certain clothing, opening doors, etc.

You can in a light-hearted way say something like “mum, you know this doesn’t do anything” and then compliantly chomp down your 12 grapes.


#13

I would think these are family CULTURAL customs and not religious customs or practices.

Lots of Phillipinos are Catholic and carry on their cultural customs. I eat pancit New Years myself.

A lot of Southeners eat black eye peas on New Year. But they are not worshipping a legume.


#14

The biggest problem I see is trying to eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds. That sounds like a recipe for choking. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about these things, as long as you aren’t attaching some superstitious spiritual significance to them. As long as you just see them as just harmless family customs, I see no problem – other than possibly choking on some grapes.


#15

I think it is paganism. It clearly is. I am surprised no one else can see this. But not to worry because you know as well as I know that none of these superstitions work. Actually there are bad spirits as I’ve been told and they can actually function but that’s off topic I think. But I don’t think this tradition you mention is a bad spirit - I just think it is just an imaginary spirit that doesn’t work at all.

I think the best way to deal with it is to be loving and accepting of the other people in your family who like to continue such traditions. It is difficult to change other people’s beliefs. Just don’t take the tradition seriously and I think small hints to your family members that this simply doesn’t interest you would be the way to handle this. If it makes your mom happy to go along with it I suppose thats OK as long as you don’t believe in it. If you allow God to completely control your life and put everything else aside - including these disfunctional traditions - thats the way to a perfect life. But love those who are lost too - like Mother Theresa. It seems your other family members who practice these traditions are a little lost and its up to you if you want to lead them - or perhaps leave that to God - let God deal with it.

You will have to handle this delicately because you don’t want to show disrespect for your family members. This is a tough issue to deal with but don’t worry its not a big problem.


closed #16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.