Ethnicty in America: Celebrations

Figure 1.--Here wesee some American kids in the 1920s dressed up in Dutch folk costumes. We assume that they are of Dutch ancestry.

One interesting question is at what stage did Americans began to look back with nostalgia at their country of origin. I am not sure this happned at all in the 17th and 18th century. The vast majority of colonisys were of English origins. They tended to view England as the mother country and in fact saw themselves as English. Thus when they came to America, it was not like going to a foreign country, but rather another part of England, if a somewhat primitive part. Even as late as the Revolutionary War (1777-83), many colonists saw themselves as English rather than American. There were some foreign groups: the Scotts-Irish in the back woods, the Dutch in the Hudson Valley, and the Germans in various locations. For them the break with England was less traumatic than with colonists of English ancestry. We are unsure to what extent these communities sponsored events that might today be called ethnic festivals. The 19th century brought large numbers of European immigrants as to a lesser extent Asian immigrants. They came into an American that was culturally English and Protestant. The first big group was the Irish, but mny other groups followed. Most were very anxious to ecome American, especially the children. We do not have information on major ethnic events and cotuming in the 19th century, but there certainly religious celebrations which various ethnic communities celebrated. Ethnic identity and celebratins were more pronounced among those whnic groups that clustered togther in big city ghettos. Here it should be remembered that many immigrant groups came from portions of the Austrian-Hungarian or Russian Empires as well as Ireland at the time part of Britain and not viable nation states. An exception here was Italy which was a very new European state. We do begin to see ethnic events becoming important in the 20th century and children dressing up in ethnic costumes.


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Created: 5:47 PM 5/25/2008
Last updated: 5:47 PM 5/25/2008