Cultural significance

What is your cultural background? Does it look different than other people you know? That’s okay. If one thing is certain, it’s that culture makes you unique and gives added meaning to life.

Unique


At its core, culture is “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social groups.” Simply put, it’s what makes you distinct from others. Often, we think of the most drastic differences when comparing cultures. If you were born in the United States, you might think outrageous cultural differences are food. For instance, in China, bird’s nest soup is considered a delicacy. It isn’t the bird’s nest full of twigs and leaves you’re probably thinking of either. The nest is made from a swift, a bird that uses its own saliva to make its nest. Another example is fried tarantulas in Cambodia, which are a favorite snack among locals. Typically, this is what Americans think of when pondering cultural differences. However, you have plenty of smaller, less impressionable differences with your American counterparts than you know.


There are cultures, and then there are subcultures. Essentially, a subculture is an existing smaller culture within a larger one. If you’re American, you have that in common with other Americans. Yet, you could have been raised on the east coast while your friend was born on the west coast. Therein lies subcultures, and they get smaller and smaller. A product of your culture could be a dialect. Maybe you have a southern drawl, and that makes you distinct. All of us have differences in voices and appearances, including eyes, noses, ears, mouths, skin color, hair, the list goes on. Past that, you can look and sound almost the same as someone you know. So then, what makes you different?


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Well, it could be the way you were raised. Because you look and sound like someone you know doesn’t mean you act the same. Maybe one of you is an introvert and the other an extrovert. Perhaps one of you likes being active and going outside while the other enjoys laying on the couch watching television. Often, these actions are rooted in our environments. Typically, the culture you grow up in is the one you feel the most comfortable around. If you were raised in a household where manners were enforced and expected, you’re likely to have some. Because this culture is all that you know, you naturally feel more comfortable with it and are more apt to scoff at those who don’t have manners. Contrarily, suppose as a child, you’re surrounded by a culture of violence. In that case, you’re more apt to normalize this type of behavior and even come to expect it, when in all actuality, it’s not ordinary.


As much devastation culture can bring to the lives of many, what’s more remarkable, is the meaning it gives to life. Culture has significance, and it’s how we build our family’s way of life and values. People love their families so much because they typically share the same culture, which means sharing similar morals, beliefs, and ethics. Furthermore, families usually have traditions beyond common principles. Maybe your family has a tradition of coming together every year to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many families have this tradition, so what separates yours?


A common custom is having the same meal during these holidays every year, and many families share this. But there are also less common customs, such as my Mom and Dad ringing a bell on Christmas day to signal my sister and I could come out of our room to open presents. The act was so simple, but it meant so much. Every year, my sister and I would wake up and want nothing more than to scurry down the hallway and see our beautifully lit Christmas tree with all of the presents underneath it. Although one year, my parents played a cruel prank and gave me coal, but I digress.


Meaning


The ringing of the bell was something I looked forward to every year because it held cultural significance. It was a tradition my parents always did for us, and I felt like we were the only family that did it, so it was special to me. In essence, this is what culture does. It makes you feel a part of something bigger than yourself. Years later, I realized other families did this too, but it didn’t take away how significant it was to me. I’d come to realize many of my friends didn’t have this tradition in place, wished they could have experienced it, but was grateful I did.

A separate custom I experienced growing up was watching sports with my Dad, with my Mom peeking in from time to time. He’d always been a sports fan, and I followed in his footsteps shortly after I could shoot my first basketball. This custom was a little different because of its impact, as it sparked a passion of mine, playing basketball. But overall, sports became such an integral part of my life, still are to this day, and it all stemmed from my Dad’s culture of watching and playing sports.


Traditions, customary beliefs, social characteristics, and so much more make up culture. But what gives culture its significance is the meaning behind those aspects. Traditions and customs are meant to be built upon, so don’t be afraid to implement a new one with your family. You can still take elements from the culture you grew up in and give them to your child. Be mindful of other people’s customs as well, because just like you, they had a specific set of them growing up.


You may not agree with every trait that comes from the culture you experienced, and that’s okay. You can change any aspect of culture you feel is counterproductive to how you want to live and raise your child. After all, you create a culture. Building not just a culture but one of significance for yourself and those around you involves doing what works best for the collective. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing what makes families, families.


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