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The Formerly-Hyphenated Canadians Festival

The Woman Who Dances at Hartman's!

The Woman Who Dances at Hartman's!

We were at the Greek Festival the other evening, eating souvlaki and listening to Greek music and watching people dance, when it suddenly occurred to me that my people have no culture. Other groups of Canadians celebrate their culture and heritage with ceremonies and song and dance and costumes and food. But my people don’t seem to have any of that.

As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure who my people are. We’re just white, English-speaking, not-very-religious Canadians of undistinguished, mixed, or wishy-washy ancestry. I guess you could say we’re unhyphenated Canadians…we’ve lost our hyphens over time.

We don’t have a festival, but if we did I suspect it might be a little lame. I can’t even imagine how we’d go about planning it. What would we call it? What kind of food would we eat? What would we do?

22 comments to The Formerly-Hyphenated Canadians Festival

  • Two kinds of celebrations jump to mind… national or religious. For religious there’s always Christmas, the unofficial national celebration steeped in tradition that ironically seems to transcend religion. And what about Canada Day? I’m not sure but I may have even seen the Hartman’s Lady with a Canada flag painted on her face dancing to the music on Parliament Hill with a Beavertail in one hand and fireworks going off in the background!

    Another thought is that a “True Canadian” can lay claim to and can celebrate ALL the festivals.

  • There IS that aspect to it…just like whenever Canadians go out for dinner, the first question is if they are in the mood for Italian or Indian or Chinese or Greek or whatever. I’m not sure what ‘Canadian’ food is – steak? club sandwich? ethnic?
    Canada Day, I suppose, is a one-day festival of sorts. But the only thing that really stands out for me is lots of red and white, and maple leaves.

  • I’ve always wondered what an American restaurant would serve in Mexico or China. Burgers and fries? Meatloaf? Yankee pot roast? I was watching “Craft in America” and a Native American referred to us mutts as “Euro-Americans”. But having a special day for Euro-Americans? I’m guessing other hyphenated Americans would say EVERYDAY is Euro-American Day!

  • XUP

    Unhyphenated Canadians Day!! Woooot. To celebrate your white wishy-washiness you could serve Wonderbread and thin oatmeal and mashed potatoes and you could play the theme song from Beachcombers. And everyone could get up and just kind of bob around because without any real ethnicity they’d have no rhythm for actual dancing. And then… then…everyone could wander around geo-caching for hidden, forgotten Pierre Burton books.

  • I think we should eat a lot of poutine and Beavertails with maple syrup on them…gather round a campfire singing songs by the Tragically Hip and Gordon Lightfoot…wear t-shirts and jeans…and end the evening with a film festival of animated shorts :).

  • Lynn, I think you left out the part where everybody apologizes continually to everybody else for everything they do, even when it isn’t their fault….

    Oh, and the ceremonial canoe-burning… Gotta have that

  • I feel the same, I sometimes envy the deep connectedness of black Americans, or Hmong, or whatever. There’s an instant community in being an Other together with your fellow Others. But us white folks, we ain’t got no culture.
    When we lived in Indiana (as euro-american as it gets) my Mom once asked me what the “local cuisine” was. But there wasn’t any, unless you count fried pork tenderloin sandwiches. This was not easy to explain.

  • Anne Onimos

    Maybe an unhyphenated Canadian is simply a Canadian, and that’s enough?

    I don’t want to be called a “Euro-Canadian;” I’m not European. Never been there. Likewise, I expect that many persons with the family name, say, Nakamura, don’t want to be called “Japanese-Canadian.” Many of those called Rossi will not like the label “Italian-Canadian.” They’re _Canadian_.

    Also, don’t those hyphen-names sound as though they imply a sort of semi-membership? The “Afro-Not-Yet-Fully-American”; the “Irish-Junior-Canadian”; the “Sino-Aspiring-to-One-Day-Be-a-Real-Canadian.”

  • I’m French Canadian, I’ve got culture a’ tonne!

  • What do we call ourselves? I usually call myself a WASP, but only because what else is there… it makes me wistful, sometimes. All this colourful culture, and I feel a little left out.

  • Lisa in Toronto

    I hope we don’t have to meet at Tim Horton’s, and I also hope no bagpipes are involved.
    Let’s just go out for dinner from someone else’s culsine instead.

  • Abby, do you think they even have American or Canadian restaurants in other countries? I just can’t see Italians, for instance, planning a dinner out and asking one another if they feel like Canadian tonight.

    Coyote, we even apologize to things. I do it myself – bump into something and automatically apologize to it.

    XUP and Lynn, those are hilarious, but see, that’s just it, all we have is laughable symbols and stereotypes. We don’t have anything real.

    Susanjane, maybe that’s it, maybe it’s something that only ‘the Other’ can have. Maybe the dominant culture pays for its dominance with a paradoxical lack of culture.

    Anne, I’m not talking about what they’re called, but about what their group identity is with respect to their culture and heritage. I have friends, for example, who call themselves Canadians, plain and simple, but who have Ukranian heritage that means something to them. Likewise with all kinds of Canadians who, in addition to being Canadian, are also something else that is meaningful for them, and that they make a point of not losing. I don’t think the hyphens in any way dilute their Canadian-ness.

    Woodsy, yes you do! French Canadians have the whole thing – food, music, dance, community.

    La Canadienne, me too! (But all this time, up until BOLO, I assumed you were French Canadian.)

    Lisa – bagpipes?? Aren’t those Scottish?

  • meghan

    The dominant culture?

  • Meghan, it’s a sociological term, referring to the group in a society whose language, values, practices, etc. are considered ‘the norm.’ It’s usually, but not always, the majority. See here and here for definitions.

  • Lucy

    “American” restaurants in other parts of the world are called “McDonalds”.. or in Third-World countries where there are no McDonald’s per se, they are places that serve American-style fast food, hamburgers, pizza, pepsi and coke, as opposed to whatever the local fast food would be. The people who frequent these places are mainly Americans, Canadians and other foreignors who are tired of experimenting with the local cuisine and locals who want to spend a lot of money on something different and “exotic”. “Canadian” restaurants of course don’t exist in other parts of the world.

    I disagree with the idea that only the “Others” can have a well-defined culture. That is true in (English-speaking) Canada because of centuries of immigration and assimilation and the similarity of Canadian culture to American which is considered to be the cultural norm, but it is not true in general in most parts other parts of the world where the dominant culture have a well-defined culture… Well, OK, I guess it could be considered to be true if you define all other cultures in other countries to be the Others relative to American WASP culture.

    I am not WASP (not White, not Anglo-Saxon, though I would be Protestant if I went to church) and I need more than one hyphen to describe myself. From my perspective the very fact that Canadians find it so hard to define themselves is a good thing; it makes it easier to be a Canadian than to be my other previous nationalities. As a Canadian, anything goes; you can pick and choose the aspects of Canadian and other cultures that you prefer and no one can accuse you of being non-Canadian if say you don’t like maple syrup (I don’t) or you don’t watch hockey (actually I do), because the very concept is so hard to define!

  • Oma

    Someone said we’d celebrate by going out and eating other people’s national food … and that’s just it. We are a multi-cultural country … and that is what being Canadian means to me.

    In some countries the only right way to do anything is the Norwegian way or the Czech way or the Whatever way. There are countries that do not welcome the cultures of newcomers. They expect those newcomers to become instant Norwaegians, Czechs or Whatevers.

    When I am away from Canada it is this diversity that I miss most.

    A Namibian friend came to Canada for a conference, and I asked her what she liked best about Canada … and she said it was wonderful to find all kinds of people who looked like herself here and see that they too were Canadians.

    So … I am white and have German and Scottish blood … and I identify with German cooking if not bagpipes … but what I really love is the fact that we have Chinatowns in which to shop, Italian, Thai and all the other ethnic restaurants in which to eat, and that we brush shoulders with people of all ethicities as we make our way through life.

  • Anne Onimos

    @Lucy, @Oma:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • ben

    That’s the problem with Canada. Had an identity but gave it up to multiculturalism. Thats sad and self defeating, Italy wasn’t a country until the late 1800s neither was Germany. Hell Canada as a nation has lived far longer to those to ex Gangster states, as with most of Europe. Everytime you open a TV Variety show, Play or anything to do with modern life that came from the America’s. Fair play and values such as democracy and republicanism was created by us.

    Hell Greec’s cuisine is related to all the Balkans and Mid east, Italy didn’t have past (Noodle) or tomatoes until before China and mexico gave it up.

  • ben

    Great retort Zoom! Ugh, is that all you have to say without it being about food? Canadian cuisine? italian cuisine (what the hell was it called before the Republic was formed??)

    All kinds of regional food has existed before anybody from Greece or Italy opened a restaurant. Everyone’s food is from somewhere else that goes for Pirogi, Ravioli, mandu, gyoza or dumplings (Its all the same technic), slightly different ingredients. So even Raviolis aren’t original, got it?

    You can’t deny my point. If you do then Canada is not a real Country. Because a real country stands for something. Being for multiculturalism as your identity is saying I have nothing worthwhile to present as our identity.

    Being for everything means being for nothing, and that is very pathetic.

    Maybe when people stop holding onto their past origins we can finally have something to stand up for!

  • You’re so full of prejudice, contradiction and misinformation, I don’t even know where to begin. I also doubt you’re worth the effort.

  • ben

    It’s not prejudice Zoom! Can you even understand that a nation needs an identity, and being fluffy and feeling good about every country doesn’t make you have a National identity. You have to be a far leftist, just by the way your answering.

    The reason is because you don’t have an answer, so you defame people you disagree with by ad hominem attacks & labeling them with terms such as mean-spirited, bigoted, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, intolerant and oblivious to human suffering.

    Such ad hominem labels are the left’s primary rhetorical weapons.

    Your demonstrating your contempt by trying to shut down what you don’t want to hear. Thats very very sad and shows that you don’t care about the country at all.

    Worth the effort? and where to begin? show clear cut examples, and prove me wrong!

    I doubt you even have the ability to do it.

    You can say what you want about the separatists, but they know who they are!, but I doubt you know who and what you are.