Why we find it difficult when traditions change: ‘It goes very fast now’

“The meaning of the fireworks tradition is that you shoot the fireworks yourself. That you use a few arrows to celebrate New Year’s Eve with family or friends,” says ethnologist Peter Jan Margry. “The fact that the government came up with organized fireworks as an alternative is met with resistance from a large group because it takes away the experience of doing it yourself. It is therefore not a functional substitute.”

Government coercion

According to Margry, that was also the biggest problem with the change of Zwarte Piet. “The resistance was mainly because a lot of people liked that masquerade. Making people unrecognizable so they could play the part they were played.”

The coercion of the government is essential for the change of these two traditions. “In the past, it took decades for a tradition to be adapted, but nowadays the old traditions change quickly.”

Seen from the outside

Since the advent of the Internet and social media, habits and customs have had a global reach. “Things that were previously valued in a particular society or country are viewed from the outside and are often found to be weird, strange, funny, crazy or interesting.”

According to Margry, traditions are hard and can survive for a long time, but when they are put under scrutiny and no longer fit into a society where spaciousness, climate and health are important, you inevitably get a culture clash.

Is it bad to disappear?

“Look at the Black Pete discussion. It really started in 2013 and has now changed. Even the UN applied international pressure. Ten years may seem like a long time, but it’s really fast to adapt a very old tradition.”

This year it just hit:

According to Margry, traditions have a function of unity and protection, if this function is no longer carried by a group or community, it will disappear. “The same thing happens with language. If a word is no longer spoken, it also disappears. Is that a bad thing? If you want to cherish a tradition with all your might, but it actually no longer has any strength, then it becomes a play , folklore.”

Dynamic inheritance

Tradition expert Ineke Strouken completely agrees. “One characteristic of traditions is that they are dynamic heritages,” she says. “It is a custom, a practice today, but with a historical root and also a link to the future. Traditions are taken from parents and grandparents and passed on to children and grandchildren.”

“If you want to pass on a tradition to the next generation, then that generation must also find the tradition important. You must give them room to adapt a tradition to the needs and times.”

Changing the oil bulb

Look at the oil globe. Years ago, it was eaten throughout the midwinter period. Now only with old and new. “Every time I think that this fat snack will eventually die, but it changes over time. Now you see more and more varieties, such as the cottage cheese bun, which is much less fat. The change is silent, but it is coming safe from society’s demands.”

It is important that the change comes from below, she says. “Holland is a champion of regulation, so the government can make new rules and thereby adapt a tradition, but if the new generation wants to change it themselves, an adaptation will only be embraced.”

Color for a community

Awareness is important here, for example when buying fireworks. “A lot of people who want to light it themselves don’t want a child to lose a hand or an eye, so they want to buy fireworks safely and not bring them across the border illegally. The government can ban buying fireworks, but people only want to stop lighting if they see the dangers themselves.”

According to The Washington Post, the Dutch tradition of ‘getting a breath of fresh air’ has spread to the United States. You can see more about it in the video below:

Eating the oil bun, celebrating Sinterklaas, setting off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. According to Strouken, traditions give color to a society. Traditions make a municipality, company or country what they are. But according to Strouken, new ones are continuously added, or we embrace habits from abroad.

New traditions

“Look at the Group 8 school musical, it’s something from the last forty years. We’ve only hung the flag outside when someone has passed since the 1970s. Birthmarks outside when a baby is born have only been done for decades. relatively. new traditions.”

But there are also customs that blow over from abroad and stay here, such as the Christmas tree, originally from Germany, which the Dutch thought was crazy. And what about Halloween. “In the ’90s I said: I don’t think this is a lasting tradition. I was wrong, it’s getting bigger. Traditions change and new traditions are embraced. That’s how it will continue to be.”

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