Every year in June my family has a tradition: we attend the Utah Highland Games. We attend because of the food, the pipe music, the people, and our heritage. You see, most of my ancestors were from the British Isles, specifically from Scotland. And ever since I was little, my family has celebrated the ties that made us unique.
On this day, I feel a deep connection to my ancestors as I don the kilt and walk proudly amongst my fellow Scottish Americans. We celebrate those things that make our Scottish heritage: The tossing of the caber, the putting of the stone, the tossing of the sheaf, the pipes, the drums, the tartans, the clans, and, of course, the food.
The Games are fun to watch, just like any other sport. Seeing the large caber get thrown in the air, the expectation of it landing just right, it's exciting. And at noon, the Clans gather to the sounds of pipes and drums to march. The Gathering of the Clans shows that though we may come from different families and alliances, we can all get along. The kilts, switching back and forth with each step, feels comfortable in both hot and cold weather, and for the first year my wife thought about getting kilts for my boys (something to save for next year, I suppose).
Scottish food has been colored by tradition and myth. It is very humble, as oats and meats are a large part. And the meats can be a bit, well, different, I don't deny. Haggis has been defined by many to be made on a bet, but it is actually a food that was made to stave off starvation. Every part of the sheep is included, and I can say from experience that it tastes very good (unless you microwave it). This year was the first year both my sons had a taste, and they enjoyed it. I was quite proud.
We didn't stay long, because the noise and heat can be quite trying to children with Autism, but we stayed long enough to enjoy the experience. It gives me a chance to connect with my roots, and is one of three dates when I get to wear my kilt.
And this brings me back to the importance of celebrating one's family heritage. One of the benefits of studying family history is knowing who you are, where you came from, and how past experiences can help shape your decisions. And if you look hard enough, you can find lots of interesting characters to enjoy.
These connections are important. It is the simple carriage maker from Perth, the royal lines of England, Holland, Scotland, and Germany, the harrowed pioneers of the West, and the native Americans that sought alliance that can change your outlook on life. That connection to the past is what makes me want to improve on the future for my own family. And one day, they may look back on me with the same pride as I look back to my ancestors.
So whatever your heritage, celebrate it for what it is, a tie to who you are. It doesn't mean you can't accept others for who they are and where they are from, but it does mean you have a responsibility to make your life better, in honor of who they were.