I love traditions, but I stay away from constraints

As the years go by, traditions become more and more important to me. Especially that now I am the one who needs to preserve them, reinventing them sometimes. I do prefer spending Christmas and Easter with my family, rather than embarking on a sky trip or on a Mediterranean cruise. Maybe a Christmas or an Easter sort of emptied from the religious meaning or rituals.  It doesn’t matter. The meaning can be adjusted according to your own preferences or beliefs. In the end tradition can represent just a repetitive ritual, wanted and welcomed.


What’s important is the freedom of choice. Not something pre-determined, imposed and in total disagreement with who we are deeply as human beings. If we don’t like it, even more we totally dislike it, honestly it’s not a nice tradition anymore, but a nightmare. What is my neighbour going to say if I don’t wear new clothes for Easter (a Romanian tradition implies children to have new outfit for Easter)? How am I going to be seen by my friends and relatives if I don’t buy presents for Christmas? Are they going to think of me as stingy if I offer them something small and symbolic? Why should I buy Christmas presents out of social obligation without any feelings involved during the acquisition process? How many times I heard people saying: „I do not have money for holidays anymore cause I MUST attend several weddings (in Romania is accustomed to give consistent money presents when participating to a wedding)? Some years ago my reaction would have been: why do you do it? The response I always got was two big rounded eyes full of disagreement and the words I MUST, spitted out with indulgence for my lack of understanding when it’s about life and social obligations.  Nowadays I just don’t react anymore, I listen, keep my mouth shut and pass on to the next topic.


Recently I had a conversation with a friend coming to Nederland from a Muslim country, but not a very orthodox one. I’ve always perceived her as a woman of our times, a pleasant partner for chatting in front of a cup of tea. She was complaining about the cooking effort that was needed to be put in celebrating her son’s birthday. She wished to organize the party at a playground, not in her house. I said „Great, just do it”. „Yes”, she said, „but I cannot do it. Cause there they serve only ordinary food while everybody expects me to cook some traditional long cooking food „. It did not matter that we were talking about a children party, there were some untouchable social norms to which she needs to obey. I felt a punch in my stomach when I saw the sadness and tiredness in her eyes. But it was clear for me that she was dealing with a deeply rooted constraint. It was not the moment for me to erect into the liberator of her chained spirit. We both moved on by passing to a topic that makes me furious ever since: to have sex with your husband/partner just because that’s what is expected from you, not because your mind, heart and body want to do it. Cause isn’t it that biologically speaking a man needs sex more often than a woman and if you don’t respond affirmative he will look for alternatives outside your house? Every time I hear this, my veins get thickened with tones of feminism. Starting from the basic principle of freedom and equality between two partners, why can’t you just sit on the couch with a glass of wine, trying to reveal together the reasons why you are not interested in his proposal? To find solutions together, to understand each other, to help each other. How come we are talking about offering your body as a sacrifice on the altar of your marriage? In the third millennium, somewhere in Europe…


This conversation brought back a scene witnessed few years ago in Romania in a friend’s kitchen together with two women, both mothers of boys. One of them was pregnant with the second child, another boy. I started to comment that I really love little girls. The reaction I got immediately left me speechless. The pregnant woman said: „I am very very satisfied to have another little boy because women have a tough life. For example, they must obey sex (I quote approximately) everytime their husband feels like doing it.” „Yesssss, you are right”, said the other mama, „it’s so true”. In the next minutes I left that apartment with a sudden head pain. You need to understand that those women were middle class ladies with bachelor degree and non-stop access to information. Not some women from rural areas in Romania, illiterate and poor. Even so they did not discover the freedom of mind and the right of deciding for themselves.


I still declare myself a partisan of traditions. The smell of fresh cooked sarmale during the Christmas eve (a balcanic dish consisting of minced meat folded in cabbage leaves), the beauty of colinde (romanian Christmas songs), the lights of the Christmas tree, breaking painted eggs during Easter morning, men spreading perfume over women during the second Easter day. Everything lived with conviction and joy. Any tradition that subjugates me, makes me sacrifice or hurts me, I reject it from the bottom of my heart, no matter of the social consequences.

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