26 November 2019

Old and New Traditions

This is the first year I will miss Thanksgiving with my family. For many Americans, Thanksgiving is the second most “gezellig” holiday after Christmas. For some, the holidays are dreadful for those who do not get along with their family; I know many Americans who are happy to skip or ignore the holidays altogether.

I underestimated the significance of the detachment from celebrations when moving to a new country. This experience has caused me to reflect on my identities - as a Texan, American, and international. What exactly is the relevance of holidays to me? The more I think about it, the more abstract this question becomes. I think one of the benefits of coming from such a young country is the readiness to absorb other people’s culture into a constantly evolving national heritage. In Texas, we are all too happy to party on the same days Irish, Mexican, and German descendants partied on. 

I fondly remember the way San Antonio dyes the Riverwalk green to kickoff St. Patrick’s day. As much as the historian in me wants to say that it's a celebration of the Catholic fraternity that stretches back to the St. Patrick’s Battalion in the Mexican American War - I know better. At some level, I think that part of American multiculturalism is an excuse to find more days to party on. Not even many of the Mexican decendents knew why they celebrated Cinco De Mayo - the real reflection was the heavy anticipation for all the impending inebriation. Much the same can be said for Oktoberfest and Wurstfest - still celebrated in the German-founded communities in the Texas Hill Country. 

I believe a constantly evolving identity has prepared me to adapt to new holidays and piqued my interest to see ‘American’ holidays in their more original form - such as St. Martin’s Day or the Intocht van Sinterklaas. Luckily, I have bitterballen and many warm nights to look forward to this holiday season.  

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