Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Laboring to See the Day

[what's brewing: what's the occasion?]

As I went to jot something down on my calendar for next month, I was reminded that Labor Day is coming up next week in the US. Feeling the need for a day off and a fun weekend, I found myself wishing that Labor Day were observed here. We could host a barbecue, go swimming, go camping…ah, the possibilities for a 3 day weekend in the US!

My Labor Day-dreaming eventually got me thinking about the number of national holidays that are observed here, which is actually quite high though it doesn’t feel like it because we so rarely end up having the day “off” on national holidays. There are all kinds of holidays and festivals here and I still couldn’t tell you what even half of them are commemorating. One thing is for sure though - the people love to celebrate each and every one, a fact I am most often reminded of by the celebratory fireworks (more bang than beauty around here though…) that seem to be going off nearly every week.

We’ve celebrated some of the holidays with our national friends and we’ve hosted events in the Children’s Home for the major holidays, but I’d have to say that I feel little to no connection to the holidays themselves. I have no special memories connected to the historical dates here, and the festivities are more of a learning cultural experience at this point than a relaxing pastime. I don’t feel inspired to decorate in certain ways or to make certain foods to contribute to the celebrations; the traditions here don’t resonate with me.

I suppose that’s why the thought of Labor Day conjured up such different sentiments than the various local holidays than have come and gone over these summer months. I couldn’t tell you the reason that many US national holidays feel different to me, they’re simply part of my cultural identity.

And as I’m developing my cross-cultural identity, this is one of the elements that sticks out to me.

I do enjoy participating in the cultural holidays here, even if just for the insight it gives me into the people I’m living and working with. And many times I find there’s a good bit of humor tied into the various holiday traditions and festivities. Who’d have thought that running around the block with an empty suitcase would bring good luck for the New Year? Or that seeing an owl on a holiday or wedding day brings good luck?

I’m curious to hear from you all about the holidays and traditions in the countries where you are serving. Do you have any favorite new holidays, or strange commemorations that are observed? Any funny traditions or festivities, whether you understand why or not?!

As you consider it, have a happy Labor Day weekend, wherever you may be!


Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

Ah - the joys of holidays. Yes, here too there are TONS of holidays that are celebrated, but many have a religious origin, but have become very secular. One of the largest carnival's in Central America is located here in our little town. It's quite a site to see! One thing we have learned, is that we celebrate as many of our national holidays from the U.S. We have BBQ's on holidays, get together with friends for other events, and even gather the missionaries who are in town for Thanksgiving. It's a way to "stay connected" with the U.S. and give our daughter that connection as well.

brook said...

It is so true that holidays are part of our cultural make-up. Here in Tanzania I've noticed differences between the city's way of celebrating and the village's way. Most of the villagers don't take time for national holidays.
Christmas and Easter are big though. They put us to shame in the way that they celebrate a Christian holiday by going to church several times to sing, dance, do skits, and hear the Word of God. Yes, if they are lucky, they'll get rice and meat for the special occasion. They may even buy their children a new piece of clothing. They will make traditional drinks from corn or roots. Mostly though, they worship and visit their friends! We find it hard to keep our traditions of gifts and food and family time while joining in on their celebration.
Weddings are also very different. There are the traditional vows, but there are many tribal traditions too. I've come to enjoy most of them as I attend several weddings a year. It is part of my ministry to encourage the Youth to have church weddings. There are always weird things like the bride prices, the way the bride can't smile all day (they think she's a proud wife if she does), and the way that they publicly show off their gifts as they dance them up to the couple.
But I've learned to enjoy weddings much more easily than Christmas where there isn't time for family as we value.

Anonymous said...

We are still getting used to the holidays here in Peru. Their independence day is celebrated for weeks at a time! Lots of late-night celebrations! Peruvians don't really need a date on the calendar for a party, though. Our little town seems to celebrate ANYTHING and EVERYTHING at least once a week! Hard to comprehend how they BEGIN their parties at 11 and don't finish up til sometimes 3 or 4am.

Becky said...

Sounds like things are very interesting where you are. Our family is on their way to Peru and we can't wait to get there, Lord willing, in January. One of our reasons for picking that date is to have one last "holiday" here in the US with our families... a sort of memory-making send-off for everyone. I'm looking forward to making new traditions and memories with my girls and husband, but I know we'll miss some of the things here.!
Becky @ The Journey

Danelle Marie Singhanart said...

Tent-maker in Bangkok, Thailand. We have a holiday here that lasts for a week. It's the Thai New Year called "Songkran". After going to the temple, etc, the Americans, Thai Christians, and the rest of Thailand enjoy literally a nation-wide water war where the weapons are groups of people sitting in the back of a pick up truck with huge trashcans of water and smaller buckets for throwing. It's a blast and a huge relief since it occurs during the HOTTEST month in Thailand. You actually start feeling cold as some put massive blocks of ice in their trash cans. It's worth a trip to Thailand during the middle of April.

Tim and Susan said...

We do the same in Japan...we try to make a big deal about main American holidays to help our kids feel American...especially Thanksgiving and July 4th. It is funny to have Labor Day coming up, I was just talking with my kids who don't have many "Labor Day" or "Memorial Day" memories...we tend to get them confused even.

Rodger and Dixie Shewmaker said...

Our city is currently celebrating their 9th anniversary of becoming a "city" with a week of activities and competitions. Lots of street dancing, and all sorts of programs at the plaza with schools presenting dance and band numbers. Our youth center is hosting a Battle of the Bands on the final night, Sept. 8. There is a lot of town pride.
September is also the month to begin celebrating Christmas...any month with a "ber" in the name is deemed time to begin the celebration.


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