Tuesday, 5 April 2011

thoughts on cultural identity (part 2)

All of my life, I have felt "culture-less."  Growing up, many of my friends were first- or second-generation immigrants.  I watched them simultaneously take pride in their new Canadian-ness, and also in the language, social rituals (like those amazing Italian weddings!), foods, national costumes, and religious practices of their former homelands.  They were proud hypenated-Canadians!

Me?  I came from long lines of British descent, mostly several generations Canadian.  The only uniqueness I could see was in my paternal grandfather, who had immigrated from England, and spoke with an accent very much like the Queen - and which I tried to emulate without much success.  But.  Generally, we spoke boring Canadian English.  We wore clothes from the Simpsons Sears and Eatons catalogs, those bastions of Canadian fashion back in the day.  We ate boring meat and potatoes and vegetables.

And we faithfully attended a rather plain Protestant church (though Grandpa attended the Anglican Church, which made me rather jealous).  Plain as it might have been, compared to the exotic glimpses I sometimes got of my friends' Catholic or Anglican or even Pentecostal religious roots, looking back it now seems to me that if our family had a distinctive culture at all, it was found in the culture of our church.

There, we were "distinctive" to some degree.  And proud of it, to some extent, I dare say.  We had plain, undecorated walls in our church building; no icons or statues for us.  We sang to the accompaniment of piano, rather than to organ music like in "those mainline churches."  We went to church numerous times a week.  On Sunday alone, there was Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday dinner (at home, with company of course), Sunday afternoon siesta (for the old folks; us young 'uns were told to read the Sunday School paper or play quietly in the yard), and Sunday evening service.  Worldly entertainments, like swimming or ball games, were verboten:  one must not threaten the sanctity of the Lord's Day.  During the week, we went to Wednesday night prayer meeting, Thursday night childrens' club, Friday night youth group.

Summer brought Family Bible Camp, followed the next week by Childrens' Bible Camp.  Winter featured periodic week-or-two-long marathons of nightly services led by visiting evangelists.  And sometimes \Young People's weekend camps, and/or Men's and Ladies' Retreats when those became fashionable.

We had our dress codes (and oh my goodness, did I ever get a dressing-down by one of the elder sisters in the congregation when I dared, at about age 14, to wear the slightest bit of pale blue eyeshadow to church one Sunday morning).  At summer camp, us girls could wear pants or modest (long, loose) shorts for activities, but we all dressed to the nines for daily services.  No excuses allowed.  Us young folks were allowed, reluctantly by the elderly ladies, to be semi-fashionable so long as we weren't faddish, and so long as we maintained solid codes of modesty.  In my younger years, ladies and girls wore hats and gloves, though that practice gradually fell away.

continued....  (Anyone out there relating?)

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