The more I get into finding out what spheres of life are interrelated with culture the more I am amazed how most things we do actually is or will become part of our culture as time passes. To become a mention worthy piece of culture, either in a tourist guide or history book, the things we do must become a tradition, i.e. taken up as a habit over some generations.
Traditions are part of a people’s identity, an umbrella members of a community need to slip under, it gives them security, a feeling of belonging and the connection to their past which is the basis of their lives. Traditions are a sort of memorial foreigners and travelers don’t get past and a memorial against modernism: Don’t forget who you are, brother!
Traditions start with the national flag and anthem, with folk dances, music and legends.
In Cyprus we have strong traditions, each village has its own folk dance group and choir who show up for the many occasions throughout the year to celebrate an event.
Traditional wedding ceremonies where the guests line up to bring their wishes and money to the couple; I think it is the most sensible thing to do, instead of ending up with ten coffee machines. Or the Henna party one day before the wedding, where only the female friends and family members are taking part, celebrating the departure of the bride from her family, all dancing and drinking; henna will be distributed to the ladies as a sort of good luck token. I have been to many of these festivities.
Many old traditions are vanishing, for example when you enter a house to burn olive twigs to drive out evil spirits; also those which are followed on religious days, for example to slaughter a lamb and distribute it to the poor and many more which have become impractical in private households.
There are traditional ways which stick to professions, the wigs in the court, the gowns for the advocates or priests, badges for police authorities, or in one of the oldest professions that of the carpenter, who still proudly practice the tradition of journeyman years, their traditional outfit and manners. Superstitions connected to a profession, for example to touch a chimney sweep for luck.
Let’s hang on a while around superstitions: Halloween to greet the dead, harvest festivals and Thanksgiving, connected with donations of fruit, in earlier times living sacrifices to avoid a bad harvest in the following year; or carnival, a leftover from the Romans. What do you think and do when a black cat crosses your way? Do you not wish for something when you see a star falling?
In countries with cold and snowy winters we find traditions to burn a straw man to chase away the winter. Heathen customs taken over and still in practice on Christian religious days such as Easter; why not, when it seemed practical to do so.
With Christmas coming on and me visiting Christmas markets where many Santa Clauses are holding children of all nationalities on their knees you meet with traditions of all kinds: Mint pies and cookies, glühwein and stollen, advent wreaths… and men and women wearing Santa Claus hats; even the dogs get one over their ears, and not to forget the big socks for the small children’s presents. Father Christmas or Baba Noel is nothing new to Muslims since he actually lived in Anatolia in the 3rd century and distributed his wealth to the poor. For most the old meaning of Christmas got lost among the limitless shopping frenzy. The old custom to make your own Christmas presents has little space in our society. We are no longer producers but consumers. Therefore it is heartwarming to see people get together and use their hands and imagination to make things themselves.
I love traditions because they make direct connections with the past, with happy hours in the past, with people you loved. You remember, you say, when you light the candle one Sunday afternoon, you remember how it was on that day when…..