Thursday, 24 March 2011

Last Spanish Class

I guess I've always thought this, though I've never felt compelled enough to write about it until today when my Spanish class came to an end. We spent the last class studying about the festivals in Spain, and our Professor explained to us the significance behind the festivals which are heavily influenced by Catholicism. Finally, we finished off the lesson with a video showing the various festivals celebrated by natives across the country.

As the video went on I couldn't help but marvel at the diversity and the richness of the culture and tradition I was witnessing. It struck me that it is really the small but very embedded things like these - looking forward to your holiday festivals, carrying out the rituals of the tradition (the Spanish eat twelve grapes while counting down to the new year, carrying the "Three Wise Men" (Los Reyes Magos) on platforms while the whole town is gathered on the streets, getting chased by bulls while wearing red in Pamplonas, dancing and making merry in public), visiting friends and family on important dates, always having something to cheer, drink, dance, sing and celebrate about - that make one proud to be part of something and want to perpetuate these things, generation after generation. I almost felt like crying for some reason. I think I feel quite strongly that I'm missing out on something important.

Cultural traditions like these retain the child-like innocence and longing in those who have been captivated by them when they were kids. They grow up, get married, have kids and want their own sons and daughters to experience what they did, because the experience is so significant and personally meaningful, and therefore important. Art, beauty and performance in culturally rich countries like these live on because these festivals allow those forms of expressions to thrive. It does not take some profit-driven economic nonsense to determine if art to them is worth pursuing or not. At least from what I saw, art and performance is important because the tradition and the culture is worth preserving. And boy were those festivals huge. On fiesta day, my Professor says that nobody stays at home. Sometimes, Spanish who are overseas miss it so much that they gather around television sets watching the celebrations back home, because it is inconceivable to forget about the celebrations. What longing and devotion that is. Maybe that's really what it takes to feel like part of something, and how a character that is guided by the heart, so that ideals and beliefs are stood up for, is formed.

I've thought hard about it, and I honestly can't say anything about my own personal culture that I'm particularly very proud of, nor do I even really know what it really is. I just was never brought up adequately that way, and I think my brother is there too (although he's far less aware of how potentially important this can be, which can be bliss seeing how agonized I am about this issue). Chinese New Year isn't half what it was one or two mere decades ago, and most youths I know of aren't proud of it or see it as a chore. I think Christmas fares somewhat better, but it is so terribly commercialized that I think many people are chasing commercially-fabricated dreams rather than celebrating traditions and values. Kudos to those who still genuinely put in the yearly efforts to re-establish kinship ties.

I must go to Spain one day to see for myself what this is like, right in the flesh. I will never truly know what they're experiencing, because I never grew up there and I think that it is in our developmental years that these things capture the heart. But I think it will be more than enough for me to experience it vicariously through the emotions on their faces.

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