Embracing our culture must surely be the same as embracing the heritage of our ancestors. Everything that made them who they were, has some impact on who we are today. How important is your heritage to you? As a keen genealogist, my heritage is a vital part of who I feel I am.
As I begin to write this, I’m thinking of the differences between the terms heritage and culture. So I am including a couple of definitions. Heritage is “something that is handed down from the past, as a tradition.” Or a second definition – “something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth.”
Culture on the other hand has a different significance. Its definition is “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc”. Or a second choice is “development or improvement of the mind by education or training.”
When one is talking of one’s culture, are they actually meaning their heritage instead? I leave that question open.
In genealogy, one looks at many trees as we research our past. Some follow a similar path. While others vary off into new lands and over time supply us with a new and different heritage. My ancestry is relatively simple, three parts Scottish and one part English. While I proudly embrace my Scottish heritage, I’m often guilty of ignoring what else runs through my veins. Like many other people, by focusing on one heritage I am doing the other a huge disservice.
Last week I saw an example of how easily one can embrace more than one heritage. One of our great Rugby All Blacks, Wayne “Buck” Shelford, received a knighthood from the Governor-General. Very well known in New Zealand, it is hard to suggest Buck’s greatest achievements because he has so many. He displays fierce pride in his Maori roots. But at his investiture, he publically embraced his Scottish heritage alongside that of his Maori ancestry. Wearing a Scottish kilt of his family tartan and a Maori feather cloak Buck showed us that we can embrace any and all heritages our ancestors have passed down to us. His stance has made me look at myself. I need to acknowledge both my Scottish and English heritages more openly.