Clash of Cultures

In our extended family we have a lot of variety. Included in the list of people who I consider family are Mexicans, Peruvians, Paraguayans, African Americans, Filipinos, Danes, Swedes, and Chinese and 2 blond, blue-eyed native Hawaiians. (They were born while we lived in Hawaii, so doesn’t that make them natives?) Kamaaina wouldn’t agree with that,  I’m sure.


Once while we lived in Hawaii I attended a meeting for foster mothers. We sat in a circle and each mother was asked to tell her ethnic background, which usually included several varieties of Asians. I waited for my turn, prepared to tell them that I was Danish, Norwegian, Scotch, English , Irish, and Canuk. When it came to my turn, though, the leader said, “You’re Haoli” and passed on to the next person.


Although I have many nationalities in my background,my husband’s ancestry has only one: Czechoslovakian. Sometimes he jokes that he married me because I was the only female he knew who could spell Czechoslovakian. (Today there is no Czechoslovakia—only the Czech Republic.)


All of these people get along with each other as well or better than the average family. The clash I referred to in the headline was not an angry clash by any means. It was just a difference in priorities.

Our Mexican granddaughter had been anticipating a Quinceanera on her fifteenth birthday, but her uncle was getting married that day. This year her parents decided to have a Sweet Sixteen party for her.


Now I have given many birthday parties for my children and attended many parties over the years, but never have I attended such a lavish party as this.

As it turned out it was really a Quinceanera  by another name.  They had rented a hall and there were live musicians and several professional photographers and videographers. There were hundreds of guests. We didn’t understand some of the rituals and the music was louder than what we usually hear. The whole event was more elaborate than our daughter’s wedding.


With our Midwestern upbringing, my husband and I were shocked that they spent so much money on a birthday party. We found it difficult to understand why they wouldn’t save the money for her wedding, which in our eyes, was much more important.


Nonetheless, our view and our customs are not what counts. For our granddaughter and her mother’s side of the family, this was of paramount importance and it was worth the cost and the planning and the work of putting it all together.


On the day of the party our granddaughter looked gorgeous and so did her mother, everyone had a wonderful time (including my husband and me) and everyone was happy—that’s what really counts.