Well, that’s a loaded question!
When we first started asking people about culture, we were often met with clarification questions. Culture is something that proudly and freely flows from a person based on a deeply rooted pride in who they are and where they come from. Others take a bit of reflection before they realize that their lives are rich in a culture that is so prevalent in their lives that it has become unconscious. And another major group of people have (for many reasons) resisted or rejected their genealogical culture in order to create a new way of life that they feel is more authentic for them and their family. Culture can be based on heritage, customs, beliefs, community, language… even food. The beauty of the freedoms that many of us afford today, is that we are free to curate a culture that is appropriate for you.
Some of our favourite definitions show how broad culture is, but also how deeply personal it is to individual families:
“What I celebrate, the environment I find myself in, heritage. Definitely food and wine! Pottery, tiles and embroidered items that are found in my home. Dancing folkloric dances at weddings and celebrations.” - Paula
“Family gatherings, holiday traditions and the histories, memories and stories of older family members.” - Zack
“Faith, Manners, Food, Music, Family gatherings, Multi-generational homes, Language, Home Decor, and Values.” - Kathy
“Language, food, celebrations and a unique perspective on life and struggle and joy.” - Iris
At Root & Seed, our journey of honoring and celebrating our cultures started with a realization that our exploration could be cross-cultural. Upon further conversation, we flipped our perspectives and felt more comfortable in thinking of culture from a family-first point of view, rather than a sociological one. There is no one way to represent a single “culture”, so we are here to help our community discover what respects our past while nurturing the culture we want to celebrate as our present selves.
Deep Understanding of a Culture
Many people eagerly dive into explanations of their culture. Having been immersed in it, they can clearly recount the celebrations, traditions, flavours, sounds, and even idiosyncrasies of their culture. There is usually a strong community element at play when people are intimately aware of their culture, but the ironic part is that these people are often the ones who feel the culture, and are less able to explain it or teach it. Being a cultural observer or attendee means that even this group has so much to dig into to better discover, reflect on, and proactively celebrate their culture.
Culture As An Undercurrent
In equal parts, our conversations on culture yielded questions about “How do you define culture?” and “What do you mean by culture?” At first, those that asked these questions felt that they didn’t have a “culture”. But upon reflection, they are the ones who most excitedly realized that pride in their history or excitement about traditions existed, but wasn’t what they had assumed exclusively stereotyped as the extreme version of their religious or geographic culture. We have heard many say that they actually needed to step outside of their culture in order to recognize it.
Defining Your Own Culture
Not everyone embraces their genealogical culture, and that’s amazing too. We have heard several stories of people who rejected their childhood “culture” and have happily embraced a new set of values, and have created a new set of traditions for themselves. Our friend Lani sums it up nicely, “I was forced to partake in tradition as a child and it simply didn’t resonate with me, as I felt no connection to the events and practices around me. As I’ve grown up and discovered my passions I chose to involve myself in a culture that is distinctly free of those traditions and is decidedly different from how I was raised.”
This is ultimately why Root & Seed is about nurturing individual family stories, and not dwelling on maintaining historical ones. Lani continues, “As a child I felt connected to nature and food. As I matured there was a natural evolution toward a more spiritual existence. I never felt connected to [my family's religious] culture. This may be coloured by the fact that my inclinations are extremely different than that of my family.” Happiness tends to come from being grounded in something, and the ability to foster our own cultural path forward inspires us!
Culture today is also far more evolved than what some of our traditional expectations of it would be. There has been so much global immigration, merging of beliefs, and changing of values, that many of us can take ownership in hybrid cultures. Immigration, mixed marriages, and even personal enlightenment means that one person or family can completely adapt their definition of culture into something that is uniquely their own.
Taking It a Step Further
If you’re interested in digging deeper into what your culture might be, read our blog post about “What is my culture?” and listen to our podcast as we explore a spectrum of cultural discovery stories. Find our first episode below, or look for The Root & Seed Podcast on your favourite podcast platform.