Traditions are part of our culture presenting identity and belonging to the history of the ancestors. In modern society, traditions are easily altered, substituted and sometimes forgotten. With these actions, the roots of our identity as a nation and the events that marked the culture are no longer preserved. The truth is, many holidays are becoming so commercialized and fake idealized on social media, that our proud traditions are in danger of becoming undervalued. Globalization, industrialization, the influence of the online environment as well as the cultural assimilation resulting from emigration processes are the focal points that will transform traditions into a “Pompeii” of the past.
The family is the place where traditions and customs are learned and respected. Without this educational pillar, society itself lacks cultural values. In America, this problem is much more acute, because families are getting married very late and the shares of adults cohabiting and raising children outside of marriage have increased significantly. The Pew Research Center predicts that one in four young adults Americans today may never marry (23 September 2014).
The problem is not possessing the status of being married, but in the desire of people to create more responsibilities and obligations. The tradition of having dinner at the same time, decorating the Christmas tree, and giving gifts to your beloved ones on the 25th of December, cooking a dessert after your grandmother’s old recipe, all this makes family members create special sentimental connections. These lived moments help us pass conflicts, to become better and to remember that we are part of a family with the same past.
Parents and grandparents have tried to explain to us that the basis of the holidays is the feelings of gratitude, appreciation and goodwill to help others. We have learned this lesson of childhood morality, respecting it with holiness. But we forget it perfectly when we grow up. Adult life makes us become materialists. With time, we’re interested in what new acquisitions we get on holidays, instead of people we visit, and how we spend time with them. The gifts of a few generations ago were probably more humble and homemade. Even the people who could afford extravagant presents probably didn’t do as much buying and spending as we do today. Advertising and stimulating shopping through special holiday discounts have transformed our precious time into a rush for material things with temporary satisfaction.
The traditions of giving gifts are highly awaited at every Christmas celebration, Mother’s Day and anniversaries. But this tradition of showing people that they are important does not have to fall into extremes. Gifts are preferable to be homemade, without extravagant prices or elevated level of banality. People have now transformed beautiful customs into psychological frustrations and enormous financial losses during this period of capitalism. In the article written at Psychology Today, Ray Williams explained that people tend to be unconfident, sad and “depressing especially for winter holidays because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on “perfect” social activities (28 November,2010).
Another reason that denotes the loss of the importance of holidays and traditions is that people do not know what they are celebrating. Traditional symbols and foods are meant to remind that these started and were marked by a past event, thanks to which we now have social prosperity and economic well-being.
Thanksgiving has become more about food and the kick off to Christmas than the memory of our forefathers and the task of counting our blessings. Christmas is not just about Santa is about the value of faith, and the birth of Jesus that aims to remember what humanity is. The goal was to bring attention and food to those who really need it. Firework displays, and parties are the most well-known activities associated with Independence Day. Night clubs, bars and travel agencies have added the price for these holidays. We must remember that this holiday is to affirm our patriotism and gratitude for the freedom and democracy we enjoy. Journalist Bruce Thornton affirmed in his article, The Lost Meanings of Independence Day, “as the years go by we have lost the significance of the Declaration of Independence, and that amnesia has made it easier for the progressive leviathan state to encroach upon our freedom. ” (July 3, 2013). When we do not know what we celebrate, we begin to forget about feelings such as dignity, freedom and the desire to fight for something more prosperous, as a result we no longer form and do not keep anything worthwhile for future generations.
A significant reason why we forget about the meaning of holidays and traditions is the lack of the desire to read articles in newspapers and books. People have given more priority in spending their time informing from unsure sources such as Facebook and Instagram. More and more young people today are informed from sources where texts are presented in short forms, including superficial information. “62 percent of US adults get news on social media in 2016, while in 2012, only 49 percent reportedly seeing news on social media “(26 May 2016, Gottfried, Jeffrey, and Elisa Shearer). Online sources not only mislead us with the information they provide, but also make us aim for idealization. A more popular trend is posting photos and videos of holidays and traditions for virtual friends. Many are thinking of posting pictures of the New Year or the Independence Day in the most expensive hotels with the finest food and collection drinks. People tend to show that everything is perfect for them every holiday. Unfortunately, this virtual perfection makes us really forget about the real people, the true feelings and the magic of the traditions encountered together. We do not have to transform our identity and the values that we have in something that does not exist just to get more likes and followers.
Besides all the above listed causes that lead to the loss of the importance of our traditions and celebrations, there is also a special category of people living a real struggle between past and present traditions maintained in their families. This category of people are immigrants.
When immigrants come to a new country with a different mindset, they get tough time to keep the traditions they respected back home. Fear of being excluded from the new circles created in the new country, the fear of being misunderstood makes many people assimilate into the new culture. Russell A. Kazal, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Department of History, writes in the Immigration and Ethnic History Newsletter about the effects of assimilation into the “white” American society, explaining how immigrants come to become part of the local majority. The desire to be accepted makes immigrants not to use anymore their native language spoken, not to wear traditional clothes, not to cook traditional cuisine anymore (XL.2 (2008): 1, 8-9. Print). As immigrants, we have never celebrated Thanksgiving Day because we do not have this holiday in Moldova. The first year most Americans told recipes to bake the turkey in a rummy form, number of the guests they received at the table, new jokes they heard from friends and family members. They also asked us how we celebrate. But their question had no answer then. Of course, after one year the immigrant people try to understand the local holidays and implanted them in the calendar of the familiar holidays, eventually enjoying their existence. But the holidays they spent earlier in the country of the native country are gradually forgetting.
There are many holidays in Moldova that America has never heard of. Every spring, on 1 March we celebrate the “Martisor”. This celebration is meant to celebrate the arrival of spring and the revival of nature. The symbol of this holiday is “Martisor”, a knit garment made of red and white color, which sticks to the coat on the side of the heart, emitting various forms of Romanian folklore. White color symbolizes purity, and red love. The first “martisor” in gratitude with the flowers of spring, snowdrops and tulips are given to mothers and grandparents as well as to teachers. At the end of March, these “martisors” are hanged on the fruit trees to bless their fruit. In childhood and adolescence this was the most loved spring celebration. Traditional festivals and dances were held in towns and villages for the celebration of the Martisor. (28 February 2015, Travel Away). Unfortunately, none of the Moldovans keep this beautiful tradition outside the country. Although many try, charm is not the same when you are the only one who respects and knows the meaning of this holiday. Another sweet childhood tradition of every Moldovan is St. Nicholas. “It is also the name day for about 800,000 Romanians who celebrate their name day on this occasion. Over 513,000 of these people are men, named after St. Nicholas – Nicholas for men, while the rest are women, named Nicoleta or Nicola” (5 December 2013, Romania-Insider). Besides the celebration of the holy name, tradition says that every child must hide their shoes near the door, cleaned and dries. The children who were obedient and had good marks at school, St. Nicolae brought many sweets in their shoes overnight. That is how we were stimulated to be well-behaved to get as many chocolates as possible.
Moldova has hundreds of annual traditions, each village and town adding to this list, its own celebrations. For 2 years since we left Moldova the only holiday, we celebrate is the Independence Day of our country on August 31st. The rest of the holidays seem to be forgotten to those who left. There is a nostalgia and a desire to celebrate again, but the charm once brought is no longer the same here in America. It’s sad because time is wiping out of identity once the physical boundaries are changed.
Most importantly, with the loss of these traditions lived in childhood, we lose the cultural differentiation and national cult cultivated by ancestors.
Our traditions and holidays have become measurable and priced, through expensive gifts, photographs published online and the intensity of adherence and acceptance by a majority group or nationality. People try to copy the famous ones, show the world that they are the same, forgetting how beautiful the identity and cultivation of own personality are. We do not have to focus only on the material side of the holidays, on the comments and emotions lived online, on the desire to be part of the globalization imposed by the advertising companies. The value of our lives increases only when we understand that the real emotions and appreciations experienced together with beloved ones, matter. The traditions that make us different are the ones behind the creation of personal individuality and the preservation of national values. It is time for today’s generations to bring not price, but the value of the inheritance that we will leave to the next generation.