Dynamic Woman — Changing Times
Heritage Sunday: Wear your colors?
Heritage Sunday at Christ Presbyterian Church in Goodyear, AZ is coming up. Next Sunday we are invited to wear something that represents either the heritage of the Presbyterian church (Scottish) or our own native country.
On first consideration, this seems like simple fun. If you’re a Scot, wear your tartan. Of course, showing your colors back in the day was not only about clan pride. Tartans identified a man’s military regiment affiliation. Men with Scottish backgrounds can display their tartan on a tie or kilt. What about the women?
I have a scarf. I did not anticipate I would need my Matheson plaid in Arizona, so it nestles in a drawer in the mountains. For that reason, I decided to dig into my family heritage and come up with another plan.
These exercises are difficult for us hybrids. My lovely choir mate Fe has a colorful national costume from the Philippines. She and her husband regularly attend social functions that celebrate their culture. She is much closer to her heritage than I am. If I choose the heritage that scores the highest percentage points on my DNA test, it is Ashkenazi Jew. What can I wear that identifies my Jewish roots?
Apron or headscarf?
Research turned up two representational items of clothing–aprons and head scarves. The musical score to Fiddler on the Roof began to play in my head. Tradition. Tradition for Jewish women is modesty (the scarf) and housekeeping (the apron). While I’m in favor of clean kitchens and clothes that don’t malfunction, this seemed gloomy. Nevertheless, I chose a scarf to represent this slice of ethnic and cultural background on my DNA pie chart.
Do Jewish women still wear headscarves? They do. And rather attractive ones, it turns out. I ordered a beautiful Israeli scarf from an internet store and watched You Tube to learn how to tie it. I discovered that many of today’s modern young Jewish woman find pleasure and fun in tying their scarves in creative ways. It’s fashion as well as function.
As I stood in front of the mirror practicing different ways to tie my new scarf, it suddenly occurred to me that people in our congregation might not readily identify my scarf with my heritage. These days, a headscarf can elicit feelings of disgust, anger, or fear. (Fear, as it happens, is the topic of this Sunday’s sermon. Hmmm.)
Identifying with your heritage
Some of our immigrant ancestors went to great pains to rid themselves of anything that would identify their heritage. It’s a mixed bag. Irish or not, most people are happy as leprechauns to wear the green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. In some parts of the United States, Columbus Day has fallen out of favor. But where demographics warrant, we substitute Italian Heritage Day.
Because they were clannish, my paternal ancestors’ Scottish roots are easy to trace. Because they were dispersed, my maternal ancestors’ culture is more difficult to identify. Russia and Poland vie for authenticity on the census records, depending on how the borders were being drawn that year.
Why is this worth our time to think about heritage? Around the world, immigrants are facing critical decisions about the future of their cultural and religious identity. Our innocence about what is at stake for them, for us, and for the world needs to give way to thoughtful understanding.
Heritage Sunday is also Reformation Sunday. Alongside my choir mates of assorted heritages I will wear my tichel and we will sing that great reformation hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God.
© Sydney Avey