When I was a young child, my parents and I would visit my great-aunt and uncle almost weekly. As much as I looked forward to the delicious, traditional Hungarian meals that were served during these visits, I also knew that I would not be speaking very much English while in my family’s company - and that made me a little nervous. While my great-aunt and uncle spoke and understood English well enough, my great-aunt in particular had a cheeky rule that I could only speak to her in Hungarian, or she wouldn’t answer (I miss her dearly). Even then, I had a pretty good idea that this loving little tactic was her way of keeping me, a child of Hungarian immigrants, connected to my Hungarian roots as I grew up in a place so geographically far from them. As an adult (and parent), I realize that in this way, my great-aunt was helping my parents stay connected to our roots, too; there was no way she was letting my mom and dad (who, like me, spoke mostly English at home, watched North American movies and listened to North American music - all presented in English) get away with raising a child who would be disconnected from one major thing that made us, us - our language. On the surface, this kind of an act may seem simple, sweet, and again, lovingly cheeky. But the reality is, being connected to one’s roots, or, cultural heritage, can have tremendous benefits for both individuals as well as their communities (and society in general).
It has been said that our first connections with culture take place within our families. So, it’s safe to say that we become connected to our own cultural heritages through our exposure to them during a variety of familial experiences (like the one I mentioned above), while growing up. Obviously, one’s heritage isn’t only limited to the language or, mother tongue, of one’s ancestors. There are a wide range of aspects that make up one’s culture. For example, the metiswomen.org website, which represents the national voice of Métis women in Canada, touches on this. According to the website, “Métis women continue to participate in a variety of traditional Métis activities, such as speaking Michif, gathering wild plants and berries, beadwork and finger weaving. We are continuing to reclaim these traditional roles, to pass on traditional knowledge to revitalize our culture and to empower future generations.” Much like in the Métis culture, many aspects of any culture are undoubtedly woven together to give it its full shape. It is this very culture, and even the manner in which many of its traditions are passed on to younger members of a cultural community (as it is through the women of the Métis community), that can contribute to an individual’s identity; it is the thing that can tell you who you are. What’s more, feeling connected to one’s culture can give an individual a sense of belonging. All of this is surely important, as feeling connected to one’s native language, and the traditions of one’s culture, can keep people from feeling lost or isolated. This can positively impact an individual’s mental health and even their overall well-being!
One great way that those of us who live in Canada are blessed is that this country welcomes people from a diverse range of countries and cultures with open arms. Canada is also a place that encourages people to celebrate their differences, and share them with others (ie., think of the large, diverse crowds that turn up each year at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival or Taste of the Danforth festivals to enjoy the cultural traditions these events have to offer - pre-pandemic, of course). Connecting with our cultural heritage on an individual level, and sharing it with others in the broader community, arguably opens the gate to a society that not only tolerates differences but recognizes and appreciate the many benefits in sharing them. These diverse cultural festivals are clearly so enjoyable to so many as when folks show up to them (literally and figuratively), they are demonstrating to others as well as themselves that there is value in our differences. When you break it down, the message expressed here is, ‘I belong somewhere special and I want you to come, visit, make yourself at home and enjoy.’ All of this can only contribute to the overall well-being of individuals and also the diverse society of which they are a part.
The initial conceptualization of Blossom and Tempest as a shop involved (and still involves) family and multigenerational input. Although it is run by Kat Molnar, a Canadian woman with Hungarian heritage who regularly imports beautiful Hungarian pieces to showcase in the shop, it is a space that aligns with the idea that all cultures have great value and deserve to be showcased due to this very simple truth. This is why, in addition to pieces like the crocheted, Made-in-Hungary VaBene Manufaktura bags, or the hand-painted, wooden, Hungarian folk art letter holders, the shop also carries items that contain within them the tradition and magic of a variety of other lands and/or cultures that are sure to be enjoyed by and beneficial to everyone. For instance, any folks wishing to learn more about themselves can start by picking up The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes. This book combines the Eastern lunar calendar with western, solar-based astrology and is a great pick for those who have a little knowledge of astrology already as well as those who are new to it altogether. The colourful, Indian, hand-stitched quilts currently carried in the shop are made using a traditional, straight-running stitch called Kantha, a method of stitching that is typically used in Bengali culture. These quilts would definitely cheer up (and cozy up!) any corner of the home during these grey winter days. Blossom and Tempest also proudly carries products from Métis, woman-owned businesses, such as Land of Daughters, who make the beautiful Gather candle available in shop. With notes of cranberry, apple and vanilla, this candle is handmade in Calgary, Alberta, Canada using 100% coconut soy wax, is vegan, cruelty-free, phthalate-free and petroleum free. Another indigenous-owned business featured at the shop is Standing Spruce Farm, based in British Columbia, Canada. With the belief that plants are medicine, they carry ancestral knowledge and tradition while creating natural skin care products such as the Mugwort and Willow balm. This serum balm soothes inflammation, eczema, and detoxifies and brightens the skin - to name but a few benefits. These items are only a handful of examples of the many diverse and wonderful products that can be found at Blossom and Tempest. Open yourself up to a literal world of possibility by swinging by the shop and giving them a try, if you haven’t done so already!
As people living in Canada, many of us assimilate, to an extent, by learning English or French, studying Canadian history at school and often dressing in ways that are considered typically, “North American” (and this is just a short list of ways we do this). However, we must always remember that in this country, we are free to explore, celebrate and share aspects of our own, individual cultural heritage. So are we free to explore and enjoy aspects of any other culture that speaks to us. And, if you are an individual who has more than one cultural heritage to your name, the benefits for you, and the people you share yourself with are, no doubt, multiplied. In connecting ourselves and others to the differences that make each of us so unique, we do several things: we find ourselves, enrich the lives of those around us, and, we surely discover that there are more things that unite us as human beings than separate us. The most important of all these things is, perhaps, the need to feel loved for being just who we are.
Written beautifully by Karina Doob