Difference between Ritual and Tradition

Each society and culture usually have a set of rituals and traditions that makes them different from the others. These are unwritten laws and rules regarding conduct and action in interaction with other people in society. These rituals and traditions also refer to cultural events and ceremonies that are practiced in a given society and that generally tend to be particularly related to religion. There are many similarities between these two terms and that is why many people can confuse them, but there are several differences between ritual and tradition, which we will show below.


In all societies, important functions, events, ceremonies, parties, etc., are marked by certain acts or a series of acts that have symbolic value. Rituals are usually seen as something religious since in most cases they are linked to a religion, for this same reason is that they are usually considered so important for the people who practice them. In fact, it is the presence of rituals that causes formal events and traditions to emerge over time.

In the Hindu religion for example, children have to undergo a ritual called yagyopavit sanskar , where they shave their heads and make them wear a chain on their shoulders. Both acts have a symbolic value and is equivalent to what is baptism , which marks the initiation to Christianity of an individual.


A tradition is an act, conduct or belief system that is transmitted from one generation to another in a society or culture and that has a special meaning for the members of that society. Previously, most traditions were transmitted in the form of folklore or stories to remember and learn concepts about morals, loyalty, compassion, friendship, value, etc.

Traditions often help unite a society, thus acting as a fabric across the social spectrum. They also help individuals in a society to know how to behave in interaction with others. One of the most accepted definitions for the term tradition was the one proposed by Edward Shils in his book  Traditions , which states that a tradition is something from the past that is transmitted to the present.

Key differences between ritual and tradition:

  1. Tradition is a generic term that encompasses a wide variety of things and concepts that are passed down from one generation to the next.
  2. The ritual is an act or a series of acts that are performed in a society.

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