What! You Have No Culture?
Hi fellow members,
The topic for our January issue is culture and customs. So far, none of you have responded to the call for articles. I know there is a month left before our November 1st deadline, but it would help Wayne (the assistant editor) and I to plan the issue if you would tell us of your intention to submit an article.
I am working on wedding customs and how they differ in various countries and times. Culture and customs can help us understand our ancestors better than just names and dates do.
I was reminded of one wedding custom when I was reading a book recently - this was practiced on the prairies even when I was a teen. It was called a shivaree and was enough to put shivers down the spines of any couple planning to marry! Pots and pans clanging on the wedding night and such things as folding the top sheet in half so it was difficult to climb into the wedding bed was enough to put a scare into any couple. It was enough to drive a couple to honeymoon elsewhere than their intended matrimonial home. Luckily the custom died out before I married, but I still made sure no one knew where we would spend our honeymoon night! Perhaps some of you had the misfortune to have this custom exercised on you. If so, I’d love to hear firsthand what this was like.
I plan to stick to wedding garments and how these might help us understand and date wedding photographs. Some photographs in my family’s collection just look like formal pictures. I learned these were wedding photos when I visited my grandparents homeland and heard from relatives that the colour white, veils and all the other trappings we take for granted were not part of their wedding ceremonies. Do you have a photo I could use to add to this coverage of wedding garments? Just send the photo and a few details, such as country and date. Add the names of the people if you like.
What other customs may have affected your ancestors and caused them to do some of the things they did? How do these customs make them come alive in your mind? They needn’t be outlandish. Simple, ordinary, everyday things may have shaped our ancestors but are things we never have had to experience. Did you know that at one time in England if you received parish relief, you had to wear a badge? It must have been such a badge of shame!
I also became interested in the punishments meted out in early Canadian history by the Europeans both for European and First Nations people. I read a book called “Chain Her by One Foot” that was about the ways native women were treated by Europeans when they would not accept the roles Europeans wished them to adopt. Flogging and Spanish Inquisition type of torture were still used when the colony of New France was formed. Hanging for the theft of a loaf of bread was common while those who committed murder were paraded through the streets and then flogged before hanging.
So something old or not so old may have made your ancestors who they were. Tell us your household customs passed down from generations or do some research on the era when and the area where your ancestors lived.
Looking forward to learning more about your ancestors culture and customs!
Xenia Stanford (xenias@...)
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