Have you ever developed an affection for a culture or ethnicity to which you are NOT connected by blood? Not to imply that we shouldn't be proud of our true ancestral heritages, but have you ever had feelings or elements within your personality, style, belief system, or values that seem to connect with people of other ancestral backgrounds?
St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner. It's always such a fun and meaningful holiday for people with Irish ancestry, and I've always admired the culture, strength, and tenacity of the Irish people. I've always wanted to be Irish, but I'm not. I file Irish ancestry under my category of 'wishful ancestry.'
My kids have heard me talk a LOT about their ancestral peoples and cultures, so today I asked them a different kind of question: Where do you WISH your ancestors came from?
My 7 year old daughter gave me two answers: Hawaii & Alaska. I think we can thank Disney's Moana, along with her love of beaches and the ocean, for the Hawaii response. And a couple of years ago, we took an Alaskan cruise and learned a bit about the native culture there. (Frankly, I was thrilled she remembered!) My 10 year old son told me he would love to have ancestors from Peru or Mexico. I asked him 'Why?' and he mentioned how much he liked the ancient pyramids the Inca and Mayan civilizations built. Again, we've had the opportunity to explore some ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico, so it was a culture and a history that he had been exposed to in the past (and obviously admired).
Their answers demonstrated something important to me: When we are exposed to different peoples and cultures and learn a little about them, we admire them more.
I thought about the potential of doing this exercise in a larger group of unrelated children or teens. For example, go around the the group and have each person share an ethnicity that they wish were part of their personal ancestry. Ask them to share what they admire about those people and their culture. This is an exercise in imaginative thought with the goal of getting a discussion going about appreciating elements within all cultures, whether we are connected by blood or not.
Another idea is to have two kids 'exchange' an ancestral ethnicity with each other, with each child researching the history and culture of their friend's ancestral origins. Kids do culture and nation reports in school all the time, sometimes even researching their own ancestral origins, but this idea gives that project a little twist. How much better would a child appreciate a friend's ancestral heritage if they themselves had done a little research on that nationality and/or culture?
Feel free to use the hashtag #wishfulancestry on social media to share your thoughts on the ancestry YOU wish you had in your family tree. I'm genuinely curious to see if other people sometimes connect with with ancestral heritage they are not connected to through bloodlines. And, if others do start participating, search the hashtag and see what others might say about YOUR ancestral backgrounds - it can be a powerful thing to witness others speak highly of the peoples and cultures that made your family.
©2018 Emily Kowalski Schroeder