Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What is Heritage?

What is heritage? It is a word that does not fit a specific set of rules, because it is something that each one of us defines in a different way. To be technical the actual definition is: “something that has been passed down from one generation to the next.” This seems like a very broad and unhelpful definition, so I’ll tell you what I think heritage is, because maybe what I believe is heritage, you might as well. Growing up with a family that still clings onto our Swedish past, I have experienced an Americanized version of what someone would deem as cultural heritage. I had always seen the Scandinavian objects that still adorn my walls, tasted the traditional food, and experienced holiday traditions that seemed alien to my friends, but never truly understood what they stood for. Then when I was tasked with writing about my ancestry I dove into the family records that yellowed in my grandmother’s house. That was when faces and stories started to appear behind all of the odd traditions that my family held dear. Through these records, I found out that my family had lived for generations near the city of Lund, Sweden in the county of Skåne. I took much pride in the fact that my family was the descendants of the Viking people known as the Geats. It was then that I understood what heritage meant. To me it meant having an identity in the land of one’s ancestors, having a link to your families’ past, and to have that culture envelop you as well as to take on new forms of it. So to answer the question concerning heritage; I say that what it is, is a molding of one’s cultural past into what works today, and to take pride in your ancestral identity.


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