Some theologians speak about traditions with a small "t," as being the written or unwritten practices of the daily Christian life and are often local in placement, in contrast with Tradition with capital "T," which encompasses the basic doctrines of revelation and our salvation in Christ.The big "T"radition
is explained by Father Thomas Hopko as follows:
This Christian tradition is given over from people to people, through space and time. Tradition as a word means exactly this: it is that which is "passed on" and "given over" from one to another. Holy Tradition is, therefore, that which is passed on and given over within the Church from the time of Christ's apostles right down to the present day.
Although containing many written documents, Holy Tradition is not at all limited to what is written; it is not merely a body of literature. It is, on the contrary, the total life and experience of the entire Church transferred from place to place and from generation to generation. Tradition is the very life of the Church itself as it is inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Not everything in the Church belongs to its Holy Tradition for not everything in the Church is done by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and not everything in the Church pertains essentially and necessarily to the Kingdom Of God. Some things in the Church are just temporal and temporary things, merely human customs and traditions of no eternal and everlasting value. Such things in themselves are not sinful or wrong. On the contrary, they may be very positive and very helpful to the life of the Church as long as they are not taken to be what they are not. Thus, it is very important in the Church to make the distinction between traditions which are merely earthly and human and passing away and the genuine Holy Tradition which pertains to the heavenly and eternal Kingdom of God.
It is also important to recognize that there are also things in the Church which not only do not belong to Holy Tradition, but which are not even to be counted among its positive human traditions. These things which are just sinful and wrong are brought into the life of the Church from the evil world. The Church in its human form, as an earthly institution, is not immune to the sins of its unholy members. These deviations and errors which creep into the life of the Church stand under the judgment and condemnation of the authentic and genuine Holy Tradition which comes from God.
Among the elements which make up the Holy Tradition of the Church, the Bible holds the first place. Next comes the Church's liturgical life and its prayer, then its dogmatic decisions and the acts of its approved Church councils, the writings of the church fathers, the lives of the saints, the canon laws, and finally the iconographic tradition together with the other inspired forms of creative artistic expression such as music and architecture. All of the elements of Holy Tradition are organically linked together in real life. None of them stands alone. None may be separated or isolated from the other or from the wholeness of the life of the Church. All come alive in the actual living of the life of the Church in every age and generation, in every time and place. As the Church continues to live by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Tradition of the Church will continue to grow and develop. This process will go on until the establishment of the Kingdom of God at the end of the ages." From The Orthodox Faith
by Archpriest Thomas Hopko (entire series is available on www.oca.orgThe Little "t"raditions
however are those traditions that are local in nature and not binding upon all Orthodox Christians. An example of this could be the Kolliva that is served at the memorial services of the Greek Orthodox Church, not all Orthodox Churches observe this tradition. Some orthodox parishes instead bake a bread that is given to those who attend the memorial services. It could be the way that a particular area says the Jesus Prayer (some use ropes, some use beads, some use a leather ladder). Little "t'raditions enrich the Orthodox Faith and help provide pious spiritual traditions that help the Orthodox Christian to grow due to their assigned meaning and pious practice but are not seen as dogma or required practice for all Orthodox Christians. Little "t"raditions are at times Theologumen (theological opinions of theologians that have not been declared as heretical or approved as dogma by an ecumenical council) an example of this would be the Tollhouses---the theologumen may be accepted or rejected by an Orthodox Christian as they are not necessary to one's salvation.