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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The End of Tradition

Tradition is the idiot’s personality - Maurice Ravel

Today and the next days there will be three especial days to celebrate in different parts of the world. We have Halloween in the US and other parts of the world, The Day of the Dead in Mexico and the Criolla Music Day in Peru.

While these celebrations are not in the same day, they usually come together and, because of their different origin, they cause some controversy.

Halloween (October 31st) started with the Celtic festival called Samhaim with very clear pagan roots. People believed that the door between the real world and the underworld opened and all kind of spirits came to walk among us, so people used masks and costumes to scare them away. Nowadays this is a secular holiday that is mostly about costumes, candy and having a good time. Of course, there are still some fundamentalists that, as if they hadn’t came out from the middle ages, think that this is a satanic celebration.

The Day of the Dead (November 2nd) is Mexican celebration in which families usually get together to remember and pray to their loved ones who have died, through altars and food offerings. This celebration can be traced about 3000 years ago, when the natives used to honor the skulls as a symbols life and death. When the Spaniards arrived, they tried to eliminate this celebration, which they deemed as pagan. They couldn’t, so they made it coincide along with the Day of All Saints.

Finally, the Criolla Song Day (October 31st) is celebrated in Peru since 1944, when it was declared that day to honor and remember the musicians who created the “criollo” musical genre, which are mainly waltzes and black music from the Peruvian coast. Obviously, this produces a strong feeling of identification for the people from this region. This day is celebrated by partying and singing until very late at night, which doesn’t seem to be a problem, since it’s done in the name of one’s country and music.

These three traditions are very important in the places in which they are celebrated. They are festivities that, for many, have been going on since they can remember. This helps the tradition get ingrained in one’s mind and makes it very hard to be erased, since the person can hardly imagine life without such ritual. Just like religion.

Traditions are something we celebrate without thinking much about it. We just think about how important they were for those who were before us, and therefore, must be important for us. Traditions are respected because, otherwise, we show disrespect, not to the tradition itself, but to those who celebrate it, love it an value it. Traditions are a chain and ball around our necks, which prevents us from lifting our heads and wonder “Does it make sense what we are doing”. Just like religion.

A good example are bullfights.

I think it’s pretty obvious how disgusting they can be. However, it’s still going on in many parts of the world, since it’s a tradition and must be respected.

Just like religious ideas in which a dogma is imposed and leaves no room for asking questions or refuting them, traditions prohibit doubt by telling us “It’s been always like this, why change it?” Usually a tradition was installed because it served a practical reason, but that doesn’t mean that it will be useful forever. And when it’s not like that anymore, tradition doesn’t allow an easy change, even if it is a necessary and useful change.

I certainly don’t want to criticize anyone who prefers to celebrate certain ritual during these days. However, to pretend that someone who doesn’t celebrates certain ritual is someone who losses his identity or is worth less than his or her connationals is certainly idiotic. We can enjoy them as much as we want, but to make them central in our identity is, as Ravel said, for idiots.

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Blasfema libremente

"Que esté permitido a cada uno pensar como quiera; pero que nunca le esté permitido perjudicar por su manera de pensar" Barón D'Holbach
"Let everyone be permitted to think as he pleases; but never let him be permitted to injure others for their manner of thinking" Barón D'Holbach