Kenny G in China

Kenny G is an American saxophonist from Seattle who has sold over seventy-five million albums. His particular brand of soft jazz is obviously loved by many, despite being derided by many others. Since the early eighties he has enjoyed enduring success.

One Kenny G song which has become well-known in a unique way is his instrumental Going Home. (Listen to it here, while the link works. I find it a pleasant enough melody myself.) Throughout China, this song is played by shops and other public institutions to let customers know that the business day is over. It's even played at the close of broadcasting on television stations, and its ubiquity has made it one of the top videos on the Chinese version of YouTube.

Most Chinese recognize it without knowing its name, and-- to judge by the various English-language articles and videos about the phenomenon, many of which feature interviews with ordinary Chinese people-- they show a remarkable lack of curiosity about it.

The song was released in…

The Rubber Duck

The appeal of the rubber duck is well conveyed in a passage from Right Ho, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse, published in 1934. The young aristocrat Bertie Wooster, embroiled as usual in several different dilemmas, finds one as he is taking a bath in his aunt's stately home:

The discovery of a toy duck in the soap dish, presumably the property of some former juvenile visitor, contributed not a little to this new and happier frame of mind. What with one thing and another, I hadn't played with toy ducks in my bath for years, and I found the novel experience most invigorating. For the benefit of those interested, I may mention that if you shove the thing under the surface with the sponge and then let it go, it shoots out of the water in a manner calculated to divert the most careworn.

I can't remember ever owning a rubber duck in childhood. Like many of the trappings of childhood, I only experienced rubber ducks when I was an adult. Plenty of bath toys, but no rubber ducks.

The rubber …

The Garden Gnome

For the second tradition featured on this blog, I am going to have a look at a quintessential English tradition-- the garden gnome. As I'm an anglophile, I expect English traditions will feature quite heavily on Traditions Traditions Traditions!

A garden gnome is generally a statuette of an old man with a white beard, dressed in a cap and wearing colourful clothes, which is placed in a garden. He is often smoking a pipe.

The concept of a gnome, the mythological creature itself, was first introduced by the Swiss alchemist Paracelsus (died 1541). He described a gnome as an earth elemental. In European folklore, gnomes are also seen as tiny beings who guard buried treasure and-- most relevant to garden gnomes-- help on the farm.

Garden gnomes seem to be associated predominantly with England, although they actually originated in Germany. Here, they were called Gartenzwerge (garden dwarfs) and began to be made in the 1870s, in the central German town of Gräfenroda. These garden gnomes wer…

Popcorn at the Movies

What will be the very first tradition I write about on this blog? Well, as it happened, the first that "popped" into my head was popcorn at the movies.

I imagine I'm going to include a lot of movie traditions, since I'm an avid cinema-goer (at least, I used to be), and I love the ritual and aesthetics of the movie-going experience.

But as it happens, I've hardly ever eaten popcorn in the cinema. In fact, I've rarely ever eaten anything at the movies. My ritual was to have a medium-sized Coke, and nothing to eat. My own personal tradition was not to take my first sip until the trailers began.

Coke might be my favourite drink and it never tastes better than at the movies.

I rarely get to the cinema these days-- not out of lack of interest, but for more mundane reasons. I'm also trying to drink less Coke (which I could swig all day long), so I've been more likely to have orange juice or milk in the cinema. But rarely popcorn!

As it happens, popcorn was banne…


Welcome to the Traditions Traditions Traditionsblog!

What is this blog and why am I setting it up?

This blog is a blog about traditions.

What traditions, you ask?

Every tradition!

Literally, every tradition.

National traditions. Local traditions. Holiday traditions. Sporting traditions.  Religious traditions. Family traditions. Internet traditions. College traditions. Famous traditions. Obscure traditions. The whole shebang. Anything that can be called a tradition. I'm not excluding dead traditions, but the emphasis will be on living traditions.

I'm fascinated by traditions of every kind!

I mean "tradition" in its popular sense. So I'm talking about things such as holidays, customs, rituals, parades, pranks, and so forth. I'm not tying myself to any particular definition, but don't expect essays on the Marxist tradition of literary criticism, or the Jungian tradition of psychoanalysis.

This blog is for everybody. I'm a conservative Catholic who has been writin…