Saturday, April 14, 2012

Keeping Italian Traditions in an Italian American Life....

It's been a while since my last post, but I had to sit down right now and write about this..because lately it's been weighing on me heavily. In previous posts, I've talked about the struggle in maintaining our Italian cultural traditions in our everyday Italian American lives, but I feel as the days goes on and I become busier with projects and just keeping up those important traditions seem to be taking a back seat.

So you may ask, 'what are those traditions?' and quite honestly I would say not all Italians or Italian Americans have the same traditions, but one thing is very consistent and that's maintaining a strong family connection. When we are all so busy with our daily lives, it does become a challenge to spend that time together, or respect your holidays like Easter, but it seems reality of life in America dictates. For example, my brother was so upset about the fact that he had to work on Easter, his job has certain days assigned to holidays.. so it was hard for him to take that day as a holiday. Of course, my family we were certainly sad not to see him for the day, but we understood he had a commitment to work.

When discussing traditional Italian families, it's pretty customary that we take care of each other in some form or another, whether it's just being there for someone or actually doing a physical favor. If any of my family members call me and says 'I need help with....' -- you can bet your ass I will be there for them. I usually get strange looks from people when I tell them how much I did for my sister, mother, father or brothers and likewise if I share a story about how my brother went above and beyond for me, because I know the American mentality is really everyone kind of does their own thing and family members talk to each here and there. Well, we know that's not the case with the Italian American family. We talk to each other all the time and try to see each other as much as possible.

I was having a conversation with friends the other day, they happen to be Italian American, I
was talking about that new show on TLC, "Mama's Boys of the Bronx." Of course as we know many reality shows are exaggerated and larger than life and usually with a negative stereotype on the Italian American. I asked my two friends, "do you think this show is exaggeration or reality?" They having grown up and lived in the Bronx said something to the effect, that's it's real but somewhat glorified.. of which I agreed. Look, we would all be lying if we said our Italian mothers don't do everything for us and treat their sons like kings. I know my mother does, if my brothers are around, my mother starts cooking and serves everything up just to make sure they've eaten and are happy. But with that, my mother takes great pride and happiness in making her sons happy and making sure she spoils them. To her she shows a part of her love this way. So, if you're not exposed or educated on these traditions in the Italian American family you might watch that show and say 'wow, these guys live at home with their moms and their mothers spoil them..' I say yes and no.

Not all Italian American men live like the guys on the show. Of course, there are limits to what's normal and not, but I'm talking about the factor that most Italian women take pride in spoiling and taking care of their children. I would probably do the same, it's a learned behavior - a part of my culture. Even till this day, if I have lunch with my father, I cook lunch and I serve it...or if my brothers come over.. I do the same.. I cook and serve the food, which most people wouldn't think true of me, but I am old school and love doing that for people I love. It gives me happiness to know I did something that my family appreciates.

Where do these traditions fit into our daily American lives? Will we maintain those traditions like our Italian mothers did?

Photo Credit: TLC


Me said...

The American lifestyle is crowding out family time. Families need to make the time to spend together and teach their children about Italian culture and heritage. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

Gus Cileone said...

I couldn't agree more about family being the glue that keeps Italian Americans together. I love meeting with my cousins on the holidays, and we shrae our lives and support each other. Thanks for having this blog. There should be more of us speaking about our culture.