We all follow traditions. Those that have been passed down from one generation to the next. We make a tradition out of celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Christmas, New year, and every other festival. Tradition and culture are undoubtedly linked. Traditions tend to be unique to certain societies and are usually born of local beliefs and circumstances.
Do you ever catch yourself doing something that would appear seriously strange to someone from another culture? Culture and traditions vary hugely around the world. They are part of what makes our planet such a diverse and fascinating place to live.
Why don’t you join me on a quick tour of some of these fascinating cultural traditions around the world?
The Japanese are very passionate about respecting, honoring, and remembering their ancestors. They do so by placing a small family altar, or a butsudan, in their home, and periodically make offers to their ancestors. This can be anything from your ancestor’s favorite food, or a bouquet of flowers to honor the ones you’ve lost. The goal of these altars is to keep the memory of your loved one alive at all times in your home.
Sinterklaas is the Dutch holiday season, and it comes with a tradition that many wordsmiths will love. Each person will draw a name from a hat, and then write a poem about that person while sitting around the fire and enjoying a nice hot drink. The goal is to be mischievous, and most families will vote on what poem is the funniest. For some Dutch families, this is the most prized gift given during the Holiday season, as it is the most personal gift you can give.
tossing teeth—India, Korea, Vietnam and greece
In cultures such as India, Korea, and Vietnam, the children are encouraged to throw the tooth far into their backyard. Then during the throw, the child must wish that the tooth becomes that of a mouse because mice keep their teeth for their entire life.
In Greece, children toss their milk teeth onto the roof when they fall out. The tradition is supposed to bring good luck to the child’s family.
A coming-of-age ceremony—Native American cultures
The Navajo Native Americans have a very special ceremony to commemorate a girl’s coming of age. Known as a kinaalda, preteen and teenage girls are asked to run in foot races and compete in other physical events to show the sheer power and strength of womanhood. The girl will wear special clothing to commemorate the “Changing Woman.” In Navajo culture, the Changing Woman is a god that grants longevity. As the Changing Woman ages, she is able to become youthful again by walking towards the east and turning counterclockwise four times. The ceremony for this coming-of-age in Navajo girls is revered and is something to look forward to.
Red Brides, India
Many cultures around the world have traditions that relate to clothing. The colour that a bride wears on her wedding day is often traditional and thought to bring good luck. Hindu brides wear red, in the form of a wedding sari or a lehenga, according to the region of India that the bride lives in.
This color has been considered to be the symbol of life- a new life. It indicates the change a bride has to go through. According to the Hindu religion, the color red also represents love, passion, prosperity, and fertility. It also symbolizes wealth and strength, making it the perfect color to mark the start of a new life.
Red Envelopes, China
Holiday traditions are often linked with eating and drinking but not always. In China, one tradition at New Year is the giving of red envelopes containing money. Parents and grandparents often gift these to their children as part of the celebrations.
Royal Worship, Vanuatu
Many interesting cultural traditions have arisen over the years as a result of people celebrating the actions and/or lives of certain individuals. For example, the Prince Philip Movement. It is a religious sect based on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu. There, the Kastom people around Yaohnanen village believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II is a divine being. Every year on his birthday, they hold a traditional feast with ceremonial dances.
Cheese Rolling, UK
While some traditions are set in stone, others grow and develop over the years. A rather bizarre tradition from the UK illustrates this nicely. Every Spring Bank Holiday, crowds gather on Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire to chase cheese down a hill. Competitors race to catch a seven to nine pound round of Double Gloucester cheese, as it reaches speeds of up to 70 miles per hour rolling down Cooper’s Hill. The winner, appropriately, is presented with cheese as their prize.
While the origins of the event have been lost to history, we know that it has been celebrated locally for well over 200 years. However, in recent years, the annual event has begun to grow and attract an international audience, with winners hailing from as far afield as Nepal, New Zealand and the USA.
La Tomatina, Spain
Once a year, in the Valencian town of Buñol, Spaniards gather to throw tomatoes at each other. The world’s largest tomato fight, La Tomatina now attracts participants from around the world.
Battaglia delle Arance, Italy
If you don’t fancy throwing tomatoes, how about oranges? During the Carnevale di Ivrea each year, residents of the Italian city of Ivrea come together to hurl oranges at each other. The tradition is in memory of a battle between the townsfolk and a ruling tyrant, with oranges thrown as part of the fight for freedom.
Carrying Wives, Finland
In Finland, it has been traditional since the 19th century to participate in Eukonkanto – the sport of wife-carrying. The wife can be carried in several ways: piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder), or Estonian-style where the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist.
Every year, the Wife Carrying World Championships take place in Sonkajärvi, Finland. The prize for the winner is determined by the weight of his female teammate and is paid in beer.
Traditions are examples of different cultures around the world. They are cultural practices that may seem strange to those unfamiliar with their meaning or origins. However, each tradition is part of a unique culture that has developed over many generations.
While I was doing my research for this blog, I realised how much we do not know about other cultures and traditions. I am sure there are more traditions to learn about that may just need another blog later.
I would love it if my readers could share any tradition that they know about. It will be a pleasure reading and learning about things we are unaware of.