(i) According to MacIver and Page, “The socially accredited ways of acting are the customs of society”.
(ii) According to Kingsley Davis, “Custom refers primary to practices that have often been repeated by a multitude of generations, practices that tend to be followed simply because that they have been followed in the past”.
(iii) Duncan Mitchell in his ‘Dictionary of Sociology’ writes: “The term ‘customs’ refers to established modes of thought and action.”
(iv) Lundberg says that customs are those “folkways that persist over relatively long periods of time so as to attain a degree of formal recognition and so as to be passed down from one generation to another”.
(v) In simple words, customs are the long established habits and usages of the people.
Nature of Customs:
(i) Custom is a social phenomenon:
Customs are the oft-repeated practices of the people. They represent the routine acts of daily life of the people. Customs are created by the groups, associations, communities and institutions. Customs are considered to be conducive to the good of the society. They enjoy the social sanction.
(ii) Customs are followed by people mostly unconsciously:
As MacIver and Page have pointed out, “We conform to the customs of our own society, in a sense, ‘unconsciously’.” Because they are a strongly imbedded part of our group life. We are trained from our infancy itself to behave in a customary way. Human infants learn the customs by imitation or by direct instruction. In course of time, they become a part of the personality of the children.
(iii) Customs are varied in nature:
Though customs are universal in nature they differ from community to community and society to society. Examples: The customary dressing at occasions such as marriage and funeral ceremonies differs from group to group. Similarly, eating behaviour, worshipping behaviour, etc., differ a lot.
Among the Christians, the husband and wife exchange their rings on the occasion of their marriage. Among the Hindus the husband ties the ‘tali’ around the neck of the wife at the time of marriage. Among the Maoreies of New Zealand people rub each other’s nose in order to express their love and affection.
(iv) The origin of custom is obscure:
It is difficult to ascertain the exact way in which customs emerged. As McDougall writes, “The ends and purposes of many customs are lost in the midst of antiquity”. No single theory or explanation can be offered about the origin of custom. Numerous customs have arisen in different ways to satisfy the varied needs of man.
(v) Customs are relatively durable:
In comparison with the folkways, fashions and fads, customs are more durable. Customs evolve gradually and hence they are obeyed mostly in a spontaneous manner. When once the customs are established they gain grounds to become firm. They are implicitly obeyed with least resistance by the majority of the people. The sole justification for following the custom is that it has been in existence since a long time.
(vi) All customs are not irrational:
It is wrong to assume that all customs are irrational and meaningless. Still a good number of customs are found to be illogical, meaningless, non-utilitarian and unethical in character. In modem times, much stress is laid on following the rational, useful and meaningful customs.