“We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
I like the above quote by Alan W. Watts and how he describes cultures and society. I am not trying to be philosophical or an anthropologist here, but think about it. When we think about fitting in a new location (especially for us fellows who come to the States from different countries) and embracing this new country’s cultures, we think about the food, the language and its slangs, the fashion etc., mostly the exterior things if you ask me!
When I think about culture, I think about the history and the traditions. Festivals according to me play a significant role in developing the culture of that area. Be it creating a spooky atmosphere and dressing up like the dead on Halloween or wearing ugly sweaters, singing carols or drinking EGGNOG on Christmas or taking family pictures to send to relatives, . I would like to dedicate this blog to these festivals and what I have learnt from them.
Halloween: Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition, originated from the ancient Celtic (medieval Europe) festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. It is believed that this is the day every year when the dead and the living overlap on Earth and ward off on the streets. Dressing up like the dead is because of fear, it is believed that dressing up would create an illusion and the dead would consider you as their companions and not take you with them.
Now this was interesting for me to understand why the conversion of your houses into spooky looking cobwebs, but something that I did not understand is how does pumpkins carving, pumpkin lattes or pies or Trick- Treat and giving candy play a role into all of this?
In most of the cultures around the globe people pray for the dead and hope their souls are rested and not disturbed, unable to cross over to complete their cycle of life. In a way, is it not true that we all celebrate Halloween without actually calling it Halloween or celebrating it on October 31st?
Thanks Giving: November 27th was yet another festival for me that gave me the opportunity to learn about this diverse country. Continuing from some bits for Halloween- where we would be trying to protect the harvest. Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Even though this is typically celebrated in USA and Canada, I am sure all countries have their own version of celebrating harvest and thanking all the elements for corporation for the same.
In India, in Punjab we have ‘Baisakhi’, the Yourba people in Nigeria celebrate ‘Ikore’ or ‘Sukkot’ is celebrated by Jewish and ‘Erntedanfest’ in Germany, these all festivals are on the similar concept, where you celebrate for a good harvest and convey thanks to God or natural elements of this fine universe.
As far as Turkey Dinner on Thanks Giving, this remains a mystery to me on why this tradition. I spoke to a lot of people and read a lot but could not find out why this specific bird is served on table (keeping aside my sentiments of killing a bird in order to celebrate!)
As a young girl, I had either seen on television or read somewhere, can’t remember. Thanks Giving Day was also consider a day for peace offering to the Native Indians in America to rest the feud between them. But I am not too sure if it is true.
Christmas: December 25th Christmas, I think the most popular holiday/festival celebrated across but what does this holiday mean in the country you are in? For me Christmas back home means Santa Claus and gifts but here in the USA it not about Santa and gift but also about charity, good deeds and donations (The White ElephantJ), off-course it is also about wearing the ugliest sweater. Believe it or not, there is a whole apparel market segment dedicated to preparing the ugly sweater and selling them in store, this is how retail survives here.
In the works of a wise man, ‘Lie in this world are limited. Never be in the least bit afraid’ let’s jump in and join these celebrations. Jawaharlal Nehru once said, ‘Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirt’