Few words have more truth. No matter how many Scots I meet, whether born and raised, first generation or ten generations removed, Scots have a fierce and proud claim on their heritage. Not a chest-pounding machismo sort of pride. But a calm, deeply entrenched sense of belonging.
It is this inherent sense of who they are that gives the Scot descendant, who visits Scotland for the first time, the sense that they have returned home. A calm, comfortable knowledge that they belong here. THIS is where their roots started.
Is there such a thing as the memories of our ancestors being passed along in our DNA? Hard to know for certain. But something in our genes, our culture makes us KNOW where we came from and to whom we belong.
One of the best parts of working and interacting with the Scots diaspora on a daily basis is their quickness to indulge in their heritage and all things Scottish. The symbolism, the celebrations, the traditions, the music. Photographs, food, memories evoke a depth of response that, for many cultures, is beyond understanding.
Genetically and biologically, I belong to a huge family. My maternal grandfather fathered 21 children. All but one survived to adulthood. My paternal grandparents had 9 children. 8 of them survived to adulthood. A feat in and of itself.
At a young age, my parents and I left our home and family behind for a better life in Canada. Mum had 2 sisters and a niece here. But in many ways, my upbringing was likely more Scottish than that of my cousins in Scotland. Every summer, all summer, Scotland came to us. The family arrived in pairs, or in packs, but they always arrived.
In addition, all of my parent's friends were Scottish. We celebrated every tradition and holiday known to Scots. My parents regularly had a ceilidh, as had been the tradition in my dad's home when he was growing up. Of course, my dad was the only one that was musically inclined, but the others were always up for a get together.
Our house was the focus of the neighbourhood and friendship circle every Hogmanay. The cleaning, the cooking, the food, the Auld Lang Syne circle and of course the First Footer. And then there were the Burns Nights. Not that we called them that. And not that they always occurred in January. But there were times when the haggis was made, paraded out on a platter and aptly addressed by my mum as she recited, from heart, Rabbie's immortal words.
I find that now that most of my parents' generation have passed on, I crave those moments more with each passing day. This past couple of weeks, however, has provided some wonderful opportunities to re-connect with those traditions. I enjoyed sharing my heritage with friends at a Burns Night sponsored by Clan Donald Southern Ontario and then 5 days later, was able to enjoy the Scottish Tattoo at the Sony Centre where I also manned a booth for the Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada.
People flocked to the table to see what their tartan looked like. Some were clearly moved when they touched the swatch of material. Lots of memories were shared and lots of humour shared. And a deep sense of knowing that in our heritage, we belonged to each other and to our ancestral homeland.