“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Thomas Paine
When my son was born, my mom made him a wonderful sock monkey we called “George.” Though it’s full of holes, it’s one of the things he kept from his childhood.
While talking to my daughter on Skype, I noticed her roommate had a crocheted blanket in a zig-zag pattern that I’ve seen at many a grandmother’s house. I knew that someone she loved must have made it for her.
Traditions, whether oral or customary, are passed down from generation to generation. The more we learn about other cultures, the more we are aware of the traits the people deem important enough to transmit over time.
Here are some interesting ones I’ve found while traveling around the world:
How to seriously multitask – There seems to be no limit to what an African lady can balance on her head. I’ve seen a woman carry what looked like a house on top of her head, a baby on her back, and her knitting in her hand. These tasks kept her busy as she walked down the road.
How to cut a pineapple – There are many rules about fruits here in Thailand. I just accept them and don’t even attempt to compete. I stopped a lady in mid-process to take this photo of how a pineapple should be cut. There are rules for how to peel a pomelo, how to wrap a banana, how to take the seed from a rambutan, and how to properly display a guava. Don’t even think about fruit decorating. This is just the basic stuff.
How to tie a shoe – You may think there’s just one way to do it. Try asking people from three or four different countries and watch what you get. You may be surprised to see that some people make Mickey Mouse ears on both sides and then tie them together–or you may find something even more interesting.
How to put a rubber band on a bag – Here’s one I thought was a simple procedure, yet again, it’s the little things that can disturb. I’ve cut many a rubber band off of a bag because I cannot get to the bottom of how it’s done. Some of you won’t understand this tradition, but if you do–you are probably with me on this one.
How to say thank you – In Indonesia, the sweet lady who kept the nursery came to tell us that she was sorry that she had not done as good a job as maybe she could have. Oh, no. We tried to tell her how wonderful she was and how we appreciated all she had done for us. We didn’t understand at the time that this was the way to part in that country. It caught us off guard. In the States we write thank you notes. In some countries, we give gifts for all kinds of little and big things. In many countries we bow appropriately.
We value tradition, though we often rebel against it. As our world is growing smaller, though, it is important to tread lightly when getting to know people. Traditions and values walk hand in hand, and if we hope to do the same, we will learn to open our eyes before we open our mouths
What are some of your favorite traditions?