What does "traditional" really mean?

Synonyms from Roget's Thesaurus include: 

Old, legendary, unwritten, handed down, customary, conventional, understood, admitted, recognized, acknowledged, received, time-honored, immemorial, long-standing, established, fixed, inveterate, rooted, historical, legendary, chronological, biographical, conventional, customary, popular, formal, stipulated, established, fixed, accepted, recognized, acknowledged, approved, correct, right, proper, according to use or custom.

This breadth of meaning allows this word to mean all kinds of things to different people.  

To wit - 

For the most part, people generally use the word as a cute replacement for "customary" and "recognized".  That's how I always take the word initially.  Hence, when a traditional bagpiper is requested, I would intend to present someone dressed in a pleated kilt playing a three droned instrument.

There is a contingent who are more interested in the use of "traditional" as a substitute for "historically representative of some point in time". Some of these are very learned people interested in learning about how piping has progressed. One outstanding example of this is a book by Gordon Mooney entitled "A Scottish Wedding, Woo'ed an' married an' a': An Exploration of Scottish Wedding Customs" Traditional Music Books, Lauder, Scotland 1999.

There are also those who wish to argue about two droned warpipes, whether tunes we play are songs, great kilts and the glorious days of Bonnie Prince Charlie.  I prefer the far sweeter sound of my own drones...

I always recommend that anyone interested in traditions and traditional events, do what people before us have done - keep what is meaningful and add to it to make the event significant and important. Don't feel the need to retain that which is not of value to you!

Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016