Difference Between Custom and Tradition

Main Difference –  Custom vs Tradition

Every society, community and family have traditions and customs that are common to them. Though these two words, traditions, and customs are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between custom and tradition. The main difference between custom and tradition lies in the length of time associated with them. A custom is a commonly accepted manner of behaving or doing something in a particular society, place or time. A tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.

What is a Tradition

A tradition is a way of behaving, thinking or doing something that has been followed by people in a particular community, society, family, etc. for a long time. A tradition can be an idea, belief that is passed down from one generation to another. It can be common to a certain religion, culture or even a family. For example, members of a certain family can have a party on a certain day of the year. If this practice is followed for many years by several generations, this can turn to a family tradition.

While following traditions are not obligatory, many people follow traditions as it is the way of life that they have been taught from childhood. However, it is always better to follow a tradition after knowing the origins and the reason behind that tradition. Since traditions are not strict rules and regulations, it is always possible to change certain aspects of a tradition. In fact, most of the traditions we follow today are variations of an original tradition; over the time, people have added and omitted certain aspects of a tradition. For example, if we look at the history of the Christmas traditions, Christmas trees were traditionally decorated with edibles like apples and nuts; it was in the 18th century that it began to be illuminated by candles. Today Christmas trees are decorated with electric lights and various ornaments.Difference Between Custom and Tradition

What is a Custom

A custom is a usage or practice common to many or a particular place or group of people. It is the commonly accepted way of behaving or doing something in a particular society, place or time. Each culture, society and religion have their customs. For example, in some countries bowing is a way of showing respect and gratitude.

 Just like traditions, a custom can start in a family; a certain gesture, behavior or act becomes a custom when it is constantly practiced. When a custom is followed for many years and passed down to younger generations, it becomes a tradition. Main Difference - Custom vs Tradition

Difference Between Custom and Tradition


Custom is a usage or practice common to many or a particular place or group of people.

Tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation or the fact of being passed on in this way.

Length of time

Custom can be a new practice.

Tradition is always a custom that has been passed down for years.


Custom, if passed down for generations, can become a tradition

Tradition is a custom that have been transmitted through generations.Difference Between Custom and Tradition - infographic

Image Courtesy:

“West Point Hat Toss” by the U.S Army (CC-BY 2.0) via Flickr

“children’s prayer” by rana ossama (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

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