European Heritage Days are traditionally held each September across the European Union, and feature cultural events highlighting local skills and traditions, architecture and works of art. The broader aim is to bring citizens together in harmony even though there are differences in cultures and languages.
These days have come to mean a lot to me because, while my father’s side of the family is from the U.S., my mother and her whole side of the family are from Belgium. It has always been really important for me and my family to acknowledge my European heritage, especially growing up in the States. Understanding and learning more about my heritage is something that I have come to realize is so valuable especially as I have gotten older.
Growing up with parents from two different countries teaches you a lot about the importance of culture and the permanent stamp it leaves on your identity. When I was younger, I never really paid much attention to my Belgium heritage. because it didn’t feel as significant due to the fact that all of my mother’s side of the family still live in Europe and so we don’t get to see them as often. However, this doesn’t make my European heritage any less important; it just means I have to dig deeper to learn more about it.
Learning to represent
It wasn’t until I started asking my mom more questions about what her life was like as she was growing up and before she moved to America that I realized the impact of her life experience has on who I am. Knowing where you come from and the types of cultures your parents were raised in can help you better understand why you are the way you are, and how you got to be that way. The valuable stories, pictures, and glimpses that I get into my mom’s European customs help me better represent my family and my heritage.
Keeping traditions alive
Even doing something small like asking my mom to teach me a recipe her mom used to make helps me learn more about some of our Belgium traditions which are just as important as our American ones. Getting to experience two different cultures growing up is a beautiful thing to be explored, understood, and appreciated. I am so thankful for the different pieces of heritage that have come together to help me become who I am today. Additionally, I am thankful for my parents for always striving to show me the importance of both cultures and raising me to be curious about my roots.
I would urge you to ask your parents about their stories, traditions, and ways that have made an impact on you. There is so much to learn about where you come from and what makes you, you. It’s never too late to start embracing your culture and striving to learn more about your family history.
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