Each year around Thanksgiving I’m amazed at how many of the Irish I meet are familiar with American Thanksgiving traditions. I know that’s not a typical immigrant experience. Ireland and the U.S. are unnaturally close. But I am heartened to see the sharing and acceptance of traditions and rituals nonetheless. I think that’s one of the best and most important aspects of living overseas.
And, more importantly, I’m thrilled not just to have my new Irish friends, Croatian friends, and as many wayward Americans as we can fit packed in, enjoying each others company, making new traditions, being thankful, and sharing memories of all of our homes. It keeps me from eating absolutely everything in sight.
But seriously, the best part of sharing your own traditions is that it encourages others to share theirs, and, as a result, a whole new generation of traditions and practices come to life.
As our Thanksgiving celebration drew to a close this year it occurred to me that a couple of our guests have been attending our Dublin Thanksgiving for several years now. Together, we’re establishing a new tradition. And it’s not that this new tradition is any better or worse than those we left behind. But I’m thrilled that we, and our Dublin friends, have something to look forward to each year – a way to share a bit of our home with them, and they with us. At this time of year, it lightens the load and makes the distance from family easier to tolerate.
Around this time of year, as we’ve shared our family and cultural traditions, there are other traditions people have shared with us. “Telling the Tain” (pronounced ‘tawn’), is an epic Irish folk tale that friends of mine have taken to telling upstairs at Dublin’s Stag’s Head pub in November and December each year. I knew Sorcha and Aron already, but got to know them better by joining the crowd for their performances (which include other tales throughout the year under the name, ‘Candelit Tales’). And, as a result I have now begun to share their annual tradition with other friends who just happen to be immigrants as well. And they, in turn, have shared their Christmas traditions with Kalpana and I by (for example) inviting us to their house for goose last year on Christmas Eve. And other friends have picked up Diwali and various other traditions along the way.
The sharing of stories is a long and honored practice amongst weary travelers on the road. It is a kind of cultural breaking of bread. But for migrants (immigrants/emigrants) who are a bit more rooted in place, the sharing of traditions, of an actual practice or ritual act from home, is, I think, of equal importance.
The value of sharing our traditions is that we (as with Diwali) drive away the only evil spirit that can really do us harm – our fear of the unknown.
Dublin, December 2015
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Water Rights (and infrastructure)
Finding the “Right” City For You