We live at a confluence of cultures, for the most part, borders and languages blurred and changing. Nothing reflects that better than the holidays.
I grew up in a country with one distinct population: Caucasians – nearly 100% – who were (many still are) of mostly one religion, and who spoke one language. All around us, and several countries over, that’s all there was.
In my religious family, Christmas was very important — religiously and traditionally. Folks took great pride in passing down customs such as traditional wear, caroling, folk music, prayer (which included lighting up candles for the departed), food.
I loved it.
The food, the large family, the caroling, the folk music. It all held a certain beautiful magic. Didn’t necessarily like being dragged to Christmas Mass but we, the kids, soldiered through the long service — our rewards awaiting: more gifts from St. Nick and delicious deserts.
Christmas mass in Romania
Adolescence brought about change — as it always does. Church was strictly for wedding or baptism ceremonies, busy as I was (or claimed to be) with school projects. Outgrowing something imposed on you is inevitable; but when planted so deeply, spirituality never dies; it just takes on a different and deeply personal form.
But that was then.
Now, Christmas is a huge family get-together, free of caroling and prayer and the multitude of traditional dishes, though few have remained. The noise level is the same, but if you overlook the language and food, we could be any family, anywhere. Those deep traditional lines are mostly gone. Two or more streams of people from various parts of the world have merged into one big river, if you will, gathering more streams along the way.
At least that’s how it appears as I observe, considering where I come from.
I make it a point to visit the Romanian (Greek Orthodox) church here in So. Cal. couple of times a year, mostly to be around Romanian people, do all things Romanian.
When I visit the old country, I light up a candle at the local church for the dearly departed, as I had watched my mother do in the past. Makes me feel connected in a deep way. Our old way, going back centuries — who am I to dismiss it?
I tell my son stories from my Christmases long ago, take him to our get-togethers here at the Romanian church, but it’s different for him. He is growing up at a confluence of cultures — his father’s and mine — which is also the place I’ve occupied most for the past 22 years.
And it’s a great place to be. It’s different. Something I would have never imagined as my life all those years back when I rushed home from school, cleaned up my boots and set them by the windowsill, ready for St. Nick. Ready for Christmas.
Speaking of which …
… and a very happy New Year. Here’s to a magnificent 2015, dear blogging friend. Cheers!
Photo: weddings.umbria.com; trm.md; doodletags.com