RE: An Anthropology of Traditions
I’m a traditionalist. I like traditions, I believe they bring people together and allow the current or future generations to connect to their past and history.
When I look at tradition, there are a few different types that are easily observable. Namely, religious, family, and ceremonial.
There was one time a few months ago that I was sitting with my boyfriend for dinner and we were discussing the tradition of marriage, or rather a wedding. I was telling him about how weddings have lost a lot of their traditional aspects with the changing times. It used to be that women would live with their parents until they got married and then “leave and cleave” to their husbands, and a wedding was the ceremony that marked that occasion. However, in today’s society people can’t seem to make a commitment to each other to spend the rest of their lives together until they are sure that they can live together first. This whole consept of ‘shacking up’ is throwing the concept of a wedding right out the window. What used to be a beautiful ceremony and a right of passage has now been turned into just another big party to throw for all of our friends.
This disregard for past traditions saddens me. And it’s seen in more places than just weddings. Look at religion for example (my religion of choice is the Judeo-Christian belief, but I’m sure you can see the withering of traditions in any major religion). Let’s look at a major holiday shall we? Let’s go with the latest, Easter. Traditionally a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the grave. A great holiday really. But do you know what came before this holiday? Before Christ? Passover. Now, any good Jew would know about the Passover, it’s one of the staples of Jewish belief. In fact it’s made its way into the Christian realm as well. Anyone ever hear of the Lords Supper? Also called Communion? It’s like a mini Passover. How exciting!
You see Passover is the holiday where the Jew’s remember God’s deliverance from the hand of the Egyptians. You know, with the 10 plagues and parting of the Red Sea and all. Yep. Traditionally Passover is the holiday to remember what God did for the Israelites. And this tradition was followed all the way to Jesus’ day. I personally believe (although some would say no) that Passover was in fact the Last Supper that Jesus partook in. I say this because if you look at the Passover and what it represents it’s pretty easy for a believing Christian to see that Jesus fulfilled everything talked about in the Passover. Thus the name sometimes given to Jesus, “Jesus the Passover Lamb”. For you that don’t know, at the original first Passover the Israelites were to take a lamb and kill it and put the blood on the door post, then the Angel of Death would pass over the house and spare those inside. Along the same lines Jesus took the fall for our sin and protects us from death and destruction.
Religion lesson aside though, my point was that Easter is celebrated around the same time as Passover every year, and yet, most Christians don’t know much about Passover, if anything. Not only that but look at the modern twist on Easter! Bunnies that poop eggs? what the heck? Of course it came from the pagan spring festival that celebrated life. I know this, but this pagan celebration has wormed its way into Christian ritual… Traditional breakdown…sad.
My third point is on family. I have been blessed to be in what most people would consider a ‘normal’ family. Honestly looking at American society it seems like we are rather abnormal, but none the less we are traditionalists and we generally like it that way. Born and raised in good Christian homes, raised in the Biblical Tradition, tested and walked through the faith, my family sits at a high point on the mountain of family tradition. However most families aren’t that way. I don’t really know how I feel about that.
Let’s take an example from a 1968 pop song by Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Love Child”. This song is about a woman who won’t sleep with her boyfriend because she doesn’t want her (love) child to be shamed by being a ‘bastard’ (if you will) because that’s how she grew up and it wasn’t very pleasant. Now fast forward to today. How many people do you know that have a child out-of-wedlock? I can think of a good few. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning anyone who is in that situation. It’s not shunned or thought down on now-a-days’. And I’m not about to condemn you for those actions. My point is to simply point out the changes in the culture and society over the years. It’s interesting isn’t it?
The term Globalization has come up a lot in my Anthropology classes lately. As someone who is interested in other cultures, I find the idea of Globalization scary. We’ve already lost thousands of cultures, millions of languages and I’m sure unnamable amounts of traditions since the beginning of history and before. What more will we lose in the next 100 years? Which race and language will be wiped out next?
I suppose my point in writing this is to tell you to get in touch with whatever culture you’re from. The largest part of me is Finnish, and I’ve been discovering that history in me for the last year or so. It’s one thing to study a culture that you’re not a part of, in some ways that’s good because you get to see what the people of that culture are blinded to. But it’s also amazing finding what’s culture is a part of you, what you are made of, who you are and your history and traditions. I encourage you Reader, get in touch with your most dominant culture. Learn about them, some of the language, some of the holidays, some of the traditions. You’ll be surprised to find how interesting you really are. 🙂