Of what importance is culture and tradition to you? I have always been fascinated by it, I was raised in my home country – Nigeria, a country blessed with diverse cultures and therefore way too many traditions. It was a big part of me – growing up – as my parents made it a duty for us all to have ties to our roots. The education system also encouraged it, we had to study one of the 3 main languages in school and we were thought about the culture of the people that spoke that language. I stuck to Yoruba, I’m a Yoruba girl and I speak the language fluently so it was easier to stick to a familiar language.
Looking back, I wish I’d gone with any of the other languages, however, I’m familiar with some of the other cultures and traditions as we were taught in social studies and Geography and also from interaction with friends from other parts of the county. The older I get, the more appreciation I’m having for our culture and from recent events, it’s obvious I’m not alone. New monarchs in different parts of the country are getting younger and they are well-educated (unlike previous years where matters of tradition were looked down on by the educated youth).
Relationship between Culture and Tradition
Culture means the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. It encompasses all the ways of life including arts, beliefs, institutions and habits of a population.
A tradition is a belief or behaviour (folk custom) passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. A component of folklore, common examples include holidays(festivals) and clothes, but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word tradition itself derives from the Latin tradere literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. Basically, tradition is the process of passing down culture.
Some recent social events inspired this write up. One was the coronation ceremony of the new Olu of Warri and another was the wedding ceremony between the son of the Nigerian president and the daughter of the Emir of Bichi.
I also attended an Afternoon tea part event at the Ritz, unrelated you may think, but they are more related than you know. The afternoon tea party is a tradition of the English people that has been passed down through generations. Though not as rigid as it used to be, the English have kept to this tradition and afternoon tea is still taken in most homes across the United Kingdom and beyond.
Monarchy is a part of most cultures – communities, no matter how small usually have a head – and one of the primary roles of monarchs is to maintain the culture and tradition of its people. Presently, It is more common in Africa, however, there are a few countries in the world that practice monarchy, the most popular in Europe is the United Kingdom. Monarchy is still practised in the middle east where we have some Sultans, Emirs and Kings like the King of Saudi-Arabia, King of Jordan. It is also practiced in some Asian and South American countries. Very few of these monarchs have absolute powers, most of them, including the queen of England, have constitutional powers.
In the case of Nigeria and most African countries, the monarchs neither have Absolute nor constitutional powers as we have a Federal system of government headed by a President. In pre-colonial times, the monarchs ruled absolutely over their territory, colonial rule merged these different communities. The monarchs now rule over their local villages and districts and are recognized and respected by the Federal Government but they no longer have absolute power. They act as the custodians of the culture and tradition of their people.
A new trend in Nigeria is the choice of Young and educated monarchs by the ruling houses. This is the case in Elegushi and Iru land in Lagos State. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Adewusi is also quite Young and the newly installed Olu of Warri seems to be the youngest of the high ranking Monarchs in Nigeria.
Anything associated with Monarchy is usually colourful and flamboyant as it tries to connote the rich cultures of the people. The new crop of monarchs in Nigeria are even bringing more colour and prestige to their titles. The luxury, the power and the respect attached to these offices are perhaps what is luring the elite to monarchy. Whatever their reasons, we’re enjoying the richness and opulence and I sincerely hope their knowledge and exposure will help make their communities better. Exciting times, I must say.
When in Rome…
I am of the opinion that when people find themselves in other climes, they should endeavour to learn a bit about the culture of the locals, more so if you live there. Holidaying in different parts of the world is an opportunity to see other people, learn a bit about their history, their culture and traditions. Try the local cuisine, learn how to greet in their language etc. Culture is a wonder, I always wonder how there are so many cultures, languages and traditions all over the world and how the people hold them sacred.
I live in the United Kingdom and I have taken it upon myself to learn about their history, culture and tradition some of which a lot of us have already adopted- the English language commonly spoken by most people all over the world quickly comes to mind.
Now, about that tea party! According to historicUk.com, the afternoon tea party though popularized by King Charles II and his wife the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza, it is Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford we have to thank for it. In the year 1840, the Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon, and with that one request of a lady’s grumbling stomach, an afternoon ritual was born.
This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her. Needing very little prompting to find an occasion to squeeze in another cup of tea and a piece of cake, the upper classes ate it up and the fashionable custom soon spread across Britain. Jump down a few centuries and the afternoon tea is still a favourite in England. There is a wide selection of hotels in London offering the quintessential afternoon tea experience. They include Claridges, the Dorchester, the Ritz and the Savoy as well as Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.
I attended the one at the Ritz on a lovely Sunday evening in late August in the company of 6 beautiful ladies. We had as our chaperone an etiquette expert and founder of Poise & Politesse – Tolu Adewoye-Ogar. We enjoyed our tea accompanied by freshly baked scones and dainty sandwiches while she took us through the rudiments of Afternoon tea. It was lovely and I recommend going on one of these with her. She also offers the traditional dinner tutorials and this will be open closer to Christmas. A great opportunity to dress up and enjoy some fine dining with your friends.
So, what’s your take on culture and tradition? Do you think it should be preserved and respected? Or do you think all of it should go? If you’re cool with it, what do you enjoy more about it? The different clothing, food, condiments or could it be the languages or the different festivals? Let’s hear from you…