I always repeat and say that “beauty is in our differences.” I have always believed that we don’t have to be the same to get along. In fact, there is so much beauty when people of different backgrounds and beliefs synchronize. For that reason, it upsets and confuses me to see people shying away or letting go of traditions or local habits. There are reasons behind these traditions; and those reasons made these traditions inapplicable to other cultures.
I have always been jealous of Indian weddings because they are so rich in traditions. For example, before an Indian wedding, the bride and her friends participate in a Mehendi ceremony to apply Henna drawings on their body parts. It is said that the deeper the color of the Henna the stronger the bond between the husband and the wife. Seriously, wow! Also, it is widely known how in western cultures, on the wedding day, the bride has to wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” This tradition originated from an old English rhyme that says how something old represents continuity; something new represents optimism, something borrowed symbolizes borrowed happiness; something blue stands for purity, love, and fidelity. How nice!
There’s a whole other dimension of traditions that originate on religious basis. I find it especially exquisite because such traditions combine spirituality, religious goodness and cultural values. For example, the UAE has this delightful tradition, Hag Al Laila, that takes place before and sometimes during the holy month of Ramadan. The custom carries the idea where children go around the neighborhoods knocking on doors and asking for candy and money (kind of like Halloween!) to foster the Islamic notion of sharing goodness and increase giving during the Ramadan. Later on, this tradition evolved to distribute the candy and the money to the poor families and to sick kids at hospitals.
Now, while we are so different, we are also (yes, you said it) the same! We are all children of Adam and Eve. Such similarities are very visible in any country’s borders. This is when the strong differing cultures of two countries fade out and they both blend-in to be very similar. For example, Nubia, is a region that lies in southern Egypt and shares borders with Sudan. Unlike cities in northern and central Egypt, Nubia shares a lot of common qualities with Sudan. They both have similar music, food, architecture, wedding traditions, and dances.
The trigger of this thought is that lately, there has been a trend happening in the Middle East where people especially those who belong to the new generation tend to refrain from practicing cultural traditions. I am not sure why exactly; but, it could be due to several reasons. People might be associating such old traditions with old and underdeveloped mindsets. Another reason could be the fact that the media sometimes portray western traditions are more common and “cooler” to practice than Middle Eastern traditions. It’s pretty easy to break that stigma though. People may truly value the uniqueness of their cultural identity by exposing themselves to other cultures. This will make us realize how such local traditions are highly valued in the eyes of outsiders.
Basically, we’ve got to embrace our traditions and not shy away from our local habits. Such habits came for a reason that has history and meaning that we can share. Globalization and exposure to other cultures should not translate into letting go of our local traditions. While it’s important to be “globalized” to train ourselves to naturally accept what’s different from what we know, it is even more important to hold tight to our ethnic origins as this is an essential part that contributes to every person’s unique personality.