How do Traditions, Customs, and Holidays Change Through Immigration?

Posted by Paulina and Megan Michigan
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American Creed

When immigrants come to America they are looking for better lives for themselves and their family’s but they try to keep their traditions alive. Sometimes the components to make traditional foods and celebrations happen, are not obtainable. Foods and holidays like sauerkraut, corned beef and cabbage, St. Patrick’s Day, and Halloween are examples of traditions that have changed because of immigration for their home countries.

Sauerkraut

An example on how customs may have changed is traditional food. A traditional food in Germany is Sauerkraut. Many people in America don’t like sauerkraut because they think it’s too sour. Many people in America who eat it only eat it on hot dogs. In Germany they eat it all the time, regularly with their dinner. It could be a difference of vinegar or taste buds. Usually when foods come to America, people try to Americanize it to appeal to the community where the food came from.

St. Patrick’s Day

A “traditional” meal of corned beef and cabbage is eaten by many Irish Americans on St. Patrick's day. Although cabbage is a traditional Irish food, corned beef is not. It was a cheaper substitute for Irish bacon made by Irish immigrants living on New York City’s Lower East Side. Many immigrants faced the same dilemmas, that food in America was slightly different and more expensive than their homeland. Their traditional foods were rare to come across and more costly.

The Shamrock was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland, symbolizing the rebirth of spring. When the English captured Irish land and prevented the use of the Irish language and Catholic religion, the shamrock became a symbol of pride in their heritage and anger at English rule.

Halloween

Halloween started as a Celtic festival of Samhain. Originally this Celtic festival was to mark the end of summer and the harvest. For people who were bringing livestock, to be slaughtered for the winter, they held bonfires to light the path. On this day the Celtic’s thought that a door to the underworld was opened and spirits were let into the living world. People would hold feasts because they believed deceased relatives would come and visit. Many families also believed ghosts would damage their crops so they would wear costumes to ward them off. Their costumes were made of animal skins and heads. People would wear their costumes and collect food from other houses for the feast, which turned into the part of Halloween we all look forward to, trick or treating. Some of the first Halloween celebrations in the United States included “play parties” which were filled with singing, dancing and telling stories about the dead.

In The End 

Many traditions change as people move around the world. For example, sauerkraut, corned beef and cabbage, St. Patrick’s day, and Halloween have all adapted to the country they are celebrated in. When you think about your own family traditions, have they hinged on where you or your family lives? 

Works Cited

History.com editors.”St. Patrick’s Day Traditions.”History, 27 October 2009, www.google.com/amp/s/www.history.com/.amp/topics/st-patricks-day/st-patricks-day-symbols-and-traditions. Accessed 5 December 2018.

Lewis, Emilie.”Halloween Traditions have Changed over Time.” The Ellipse, 30 October 2017, kearsleyeclipse.com/37791/news/halloween-traditions-have-changed-over-time/. Accessed 5 December 2018.

Elise Dawson, “Changes Over Time,” The Goldfinch 12, no. 4 (April 1991): 10-12. www.iptv.org/iowapathways/mypath/traditions-change-over-time. Accessed 5 December 2018.

Published on Jan 4, 2019
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