When people ask me where I am from, sometimes I would like to answer that I’m from an island called Selva Negra. Instead of saying ‘’I’m from Colombia’’. While my younger sister looks for eggs each Easter Sunday, as my german father did in his childhood, that’s not something I have ever seen my neighbors doing. Instead, I will see the family living next to us walking towards the church, a place where not just religious but social life happens. A place I barely went. I don’t live on an island, but sometimes I feel that way, as some of my traditions are distinct from the country I am from.
In the November carnivals of Cartagena, my peers will go out to watch parades, dances, and the teenagers will take part in improvised “cornstarch wars”. My parents, who prefer the quietness of my rural house, only drove me there once or twice.
It’s difficult to say how I feel about traditions I’ve never had. My parents also lost some of their traditions when they moved to Colombia. Therefore, they did not pass them down to me. While I only receive one gift on Christmas Eve, my Venezuelan mother got an extra gift on January 6 (three wise men day) and my german father an extra one on December 6 (Saint Nicholas day). My brother and I joke about how we were meant to receive three gifts each holiday season, or at least two, but we end up just having one. Not only we lose our presents but the traditions of our mixed heritage.
Among all of these lost traditions, I have become an explorer of the ones I encounter abroad. The Day of the Dead with Berenice and Samuel and the Canadian Thanksgiving were two days I particularly enjoyed last year. Besides the uniqueness of each celebration, the ideas of sharing and gratitude are something I encounter both in the traditions I have celebrated back home and the ones I have observed abroad.
I embraced with all my soul the traditions I have. I eat twelve grapes on December 31, making a wish for each one, although I am not superstitious. I will start this Christmas season on December 7, by blowing out some candles with my friends at Pearson, as I do back home. When I say back home, I refer to my small island of home my mother and my father built. My peers blow the candles on the early morning of December 8 as the Caribbean tradition dictates. My mother, taking advantage of our isolation, adapted ‘’Las Velitas” so we can sleep in the next day. However, that mixed version of Las Velitas is now part of my identity.
If I have kids, I will make sure they know all the mixed versions of the traditions that have become a part of my life. The ones I grew up with, the ones my parents never celebrate with me but share with me through words, and the ones that will become a part of me as I integrate into foreign cultures. My children will probably not celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. But, at least once, I will make a special dinner, on the second Sunday of October, and I will talk to them about my time in Pearson, and the little traditions and “pass downs” we have. But life is fragile and unpredictable. Thus, in the meantime, I will keep enjoying the little pieces of traditions that my Pearson peers are willing to share, and I will blow out some candles on this December 7.