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One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
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One day we'll all be dead... > Family Traditions

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SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
Okay - I'm going to get a little personal here so get ready for it!

Scaachi's parents immigrated from India - taking many of their family traditions and native customs with them. Although Scaachi writes that she finds some of these traditions absolutely ridiculous and outdated (ie. unable to eat fried chicken at a cousin's wedding because she is not a man), she also struggles between mourning the eventual loss of the Indian heritage in future generations (her niece "Raisin" being a prime example) and celebrating an easier amalgamation into a (somewhat) more accepting society.

Despite her exasperation about a number of her family's traditions, it's clear that she holds on to them as part of her familiar and cultural identity.

In my own life, family traditions are very important. Some give you the warm fuzzies (Writing funny poems for family members at Christmas) some are a little odd (only my father-in-law can say "Hip Hip" before we all say "Hooray!" after singing Happy Birthday at a family gathering) and some are downright strange (congratulating other family members on their parent's / sibling's / spouse's birthday). Even though some traditions are a little different, they are also endearing. It’s what makes my family, my family. We have a history. It makes us different. It makes us – us.

Do you have any weird, yet wonderful family traditions that you would like to share?

Do you think cultural traditions brought by immigrant families will be able to survive through the coming generations?


Valerie Brown My short answer to this would be 'no'.

Certainly in my case, the traditions didn't last longer than one generation. I'm mainly familiar with my Mother's side of the family, and that side is a slightly complex immigrant story. Both my maternal Grandmother and Grandfather were born in the Ukraine - but they are ethnically German (Catherine the Great encouraged settlement of German farmers in the Ukraine). Then as children they immigrated to Canada with their families. They spoke low German and were Lutheran. There were interesting (and delicious) influences in my Grandma's cooking from the Ukraine though (and oddly, some Middle Eastern ones). The language was lost first (as in Koul's case); and I am quite sure none of us grandchildren learned how to cook any of the food.

It was a very different time when my Mom and her siblings 'came of age'. It was the depression and then WWII. Of course, the Commonwealth was fighting against the Germans - so I suspect there was an aspect of leaving that ethnicity behind.

Whether traditions survive or not probably really depends on what is occurring in the broader world and the community you settle in.


Heidi Madden | 118 comments Marcella those are fun traditions. My family’s traditions are more around the holidays and to my knowledge none of them are generational. One of our big “traditions” when we were kids was being able to open “just one” present on Christmas Eve. This stems from the fact that December 24th is my dad’s birthday so he always got to open a few presents and us kids felt left out. For a few years my mom would select the present - usually books or something where we all got the same thing. As we got older we would select which present we couldn’t wait to give our sibling. Since my brothers have started having kids of their own this tradition has fallen by the wayside as they start new traditions with their children.

I think it can be hard for cultural traditions to survive but it can happen, it just takes work on the part of those who want the traditions to continue. I *LOVE* traditions and I love hearing about what other people do.

Valerie, we have a similar story on my mom’s side. My great grandfather was born in the Ukraine, or what is now the Ukraine but I think he’s ethnically more Russian than anything. He didn’t immigrate until after WWII and by that time his daughter, my grandmother, had married a German man and brought him along. They also spoke low German and were sponsored by the Lutheran church to come to Canada. There wasn’t a lot of influence from the old country in their cooking though. Minor things like sauerkraut and a preference for strong mustard but everything else was “meat and potatoes.” When my mom married my Canadian father (who had strong English/Irish ancestry) that was pretty much forgotten.

You said “Whether traditions survive or not probably really depends on what is occurring in the broader world and the community you settle in.” and I very much agree. My grandparents were very conscious of shedding their German background. They focused on becoming Canadian and learning English. It’s interesting, my paternal grandparents were NOT happy when my Dad brought home a “German” girl (residual anger after both wars) but they got over it very quickly and also became friends with my grandparents.


message 4: by Diana (last edited May 25, 2018 10:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diana (librariandi) | 23 comments I am loving reading about everyone's different traditions! I was racking my brain trying to figure out what ours are, and could mostly only come up with Christmas traditions as well. Heidi, like you, we do the "one present only" on Christmas Eve. Usually, we try to figure out which present is pyjamas, so we can wear them to bed! Another Christmas Eve tradition is Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas. When I was growing up, my mom would read the book to me. When my sister was born, I started reading it to her. We even still use my old book from the 80s with my crayon markings in it. This tradition has faded in recent years (since moving in with my now-husband, I haven't spent the night at my parents' house on Christmas Eve in a number of years), but if I have kids of my own one day, I will definitely read to them from that same old book :)

Another tradition I see fading is our super-British "roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinners". Every Sunday while I was growing up, my mom would make this meal for our family, just like her mother did for hers. I even brought Yorkshire pudding to school for a grade school "share a dish from your culture" project. To be honest, I'm not even a big fan of it (or roast beef), so when you combine that with the fact that I don't cook and my husband isn't British...I don't see us keeping the tradition up.

I also think that while languages can get lost, it's interesting to see how some expressions remain. My mother's father was Scottish, so there are several phrases she uses (the most obvious example being "wee" instead of little) that I have picked up as well, and I wonder how long down the chain those expressions will remain in use. It's just interesting to me the way things like that happen because it's not a conscious thing you "teach" your kids, it's just natural.


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SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
Thank you so much for sharing your family histories and traditions!

All of you speak to family backgrounds that I am unfamiliar with (my family being Dutch from every single angle - including my husband!) so I fell like I've learned a lot about other immigration stories just by reading your posts!

Valerie, I love how you wrote that it's the community around us that has a partial say in determining whether cultural traditions are maintained or fade away. I see this in my own family history as well. When my grandparents immigrated to Ontario from Holland, they simply stopped speaking Dutch at home and struggled to learn English because their children were going to an English-speaking school. So already then, the language was being lost. We still maintain some Dutch words in our conversations - sort of like how you mentioned Diana - but even those phrases are fading fast as grandchildren and great grandchildren enter the scene. The food, on the other hand still seems to have a hold on our family - oliebollen, borecole and nasi being a few of the favourites!

~Marcella


Heidi Madden | 118 comments I think Diana's comment about how some traditions are "not a conscious thing you "teach" your kids, it's just natural" is important. I think THAT is what Scaachi is getting at. The things that just kind of "are". It's not a conscious maintaining of traditions, it's just how things are.

Marcella, I never realized just how many German words my mom used when we were growing up until I started studying German this past year. All of a sudden I was realizing I already knew the words for "hurry up" (macht schnell), head (kopf), and others. There's one that I can't remember now but I remember when I learned it in class I immediately called my brothers and said "hey did you know that when mom said (whatever it was) she was actually speaking German? I just thought that was how she said that word!" LOL

I also remember travelling in Europe and all of a sudden "understanding" my Canadian born friends who had different ethnic backgrounds from me. This was particularly strong in Holland and Italy. It wasn't anything super explicit, more just the food they gravitated to and their mannerisms. Almost intangible culture that became very apparent when I was surrounded by people who were still immersed in that culture.

Again, I think that's what Scaachi was getting at with her recaps of her trips to India. It was all familiar but at the same time so, so, so different. Fascinating.


Diana (librariandi) | 23 comments Heidi, I totally agree that that's likely what Scaachi was getting at, and I love the way you brought it back full circle to the book itself :) Have a great weekend, all!


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SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
Absolutely Heidi - that's a great point and a great connection!
I love how you pointed out how people gravitated to familiar customs and mannerisms in particular countries in Europe - even though they were Canadian! I felt the same way visiting Holland. Even though our traditions were separated by two generations and social norms have changed (very drastically in some ways!) I could still feel tied to the "old country" in some way, knowing that I had a history there!


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Anne Vandermey | 11 comments I grew up with two different family backgrounds, Dutch and English, with parts of the English side living in Canada for over 200 years. With my Dutch ancestry, I definitely notice the influence of words and foods. I feel a tie with the Netherlands which I noticed visited, enjoying some of the foods I grew up with and recognising words I learned as a child. But we have lost some of the traditions such as Sinterclaus - our family has never celebrated that part of Christmas and neither did my dad's family. On the English side, we're pretty Canadian so the traditions are ones that we've made and those have shifted as we've gotten older. I do not feel the tie to Britain that I do The Netherlands but instead have pride in the family history in Canada. It will be interesting to see the next generation as I get older and if they take the same pride in what I do from our family history and how that changes for the next generation.


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SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
Thank you for sharing Anne!
I think it's just as interesting to have deep roots in Canadian history as well as a history in immigration as well. It's as important to have pride in the hertiage that comes with living in Canada too!


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