Identical twins separated at birth and reunited years later will have lived very similar lives, even though their environment may have been totally different. Why, you may ask. Very simply, our heritage, i.e. our DNA, identifies who we are, our habits, how we react to life's situations, how we respond to others, what we prefer, and a myriad of other traits.
My heritage is one half Sicilian and an European mix of English, Irish, and Scottish. Though I knew my relatives on both sides, I really didn't understand my heritage for many years. As a result, I had little confidence in myself even though I had been relatively successful. Several years ago, I began researching my heritage. One Saturday, I made a phone call to an Adamo. He was a total stranger and not related; however, as he explained what his Sicilian grandfather told him. Through our conversation I learned so much of who I was. As he revealed what his grandfather told him, I was checking off a list of items of which I could identify. That phone call helped me begin to rebuild my confidence in myself.
HOW TO BE ITALIAN • 20 Rules Italians never break
Being of Sicilian heritage, I was interested viewing this video.
I didn't learn from the first of the 20 rules, since I had heard of this tradition. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the custom.
My wife and I had traveled to Italy in 2000. When we arrived at my grandparents' hometown in Sicily, we stayed at a home of a friend's cousin. Total strangers, they welcomed us into their home. They had three young adult daughters. When they arrived home, we were introduced and they kissed me on both cheeks. Though I didn't expect it, I was very grateful for that "rule" :).
After a few more rules about coffee and drinking, the person in the video discussed the meal. As Americans, we are used to having one plate, especially at home; however—as shown on this video—on the first evening of our arrival, our host served the antipasto which was fine since we Americans are used to a salad before our main menu. Then they served the Primo, the pasta dish. They served a huge portion of lasagna—I mean a HUGE portion (much more than I have had in any Italian restaurant in the States.
Note: ina Roma, the servings are far less. The lasagna in Rome was like 3 inches square—merely an appetizer. Thatsa one difference between Italians and Sicilians.
After the lasagna, both my wife and I were stuffed. But, as indicated in the video, our host served the Secondo, the meat/fish dish. They served both fish and meat, but like in the video we don't mix fish and meat. Since we were both stuffed, we ate a bit of fish only to please our host. Then, of course, we had the dolce, Cassata alla Siciliana, the traditional Sicilian cake. By the time we finished, both my wife and I could hardly move and it was an effort to get to our bedroom. Lesson learned: fast for 2 or 3 days and be extremely hungry if we visit an Sicilian family.
A 21st rule. It's inhospitableto turn down an offering by the host. Whatever they offered us, we couldn't reject it.
Though I didn't learn anything new from much of this video, I did learn that Italians are very hygienic. That apparently explains why I frequently wash my hands. I needed to wash my hands often when I was working as a chemist in the sanitation industry since I worked with and tested sewerage every day. However, even now I frequently wash my hands, especially after playing with our cat who wants to be rubbed on her tummy, neck, and behind her ears. She's a lovely cat and generally quite clean, but I immediately wash my hands after petting her.
The video also reminded me of when I was growing up. I was a typical dirty boy. Worse yet, I would have a bath only once a week—YIKES! But with 5 people in the home and only one bathroom, it was fortunate we had a bath as frequently as once a week. At least we all washed our face and armpits everyday. Even though I may have been dirty, when I got ready for bed and put on my pajamas I would not sit on the floor. At the time, I really had idea why I was obsessed with cleanliness, but now, I understand it is just part of my heritage.
This is why learning about our family history is important. Our habits, and more importantly, how we respond to life's situations are part of our DNA. As mentoned above, Identical twins, separated at birth and reunited years later will very often have the same desires, traditions, and habits.
The more we understand our heritage, the more we understand ourselves; and the more we understand ourselves, the more confident we are. It's even more important to record our heritage through family stories and leave a Living Legacy for our loved ones and their future descendants.
Frank S. Adamo is a writer and blogger. He is also the founder of Embrace Our Heritage, an organization dedicated to reuniting families through family stories, modern technology, and support. Frank also assists others to create Living Legacies for their loved ones and their future generations. To download a free e-book, click How do Leave a Legacy. Click Subscribe to subscribe to Frank's newsletters/blogs.