Traditionally Speaking

I was having a conversation with a couple of moms the other night at gym about the traditional social etiquette of removing one’s hat when coming indoors. I’m teaching this to my son. I want him to grow up to be a gentleman who (among other things) opens doors for people, lets ladies go first, and who takes his hat off when he enters a building.

I like these traditions and customs. I explain to both of my children about the importance of being kind and gracious but when it came to the hat removal thing I came up blank for an explanation when I got the inevitable “Why do I have to take my hat off?”  My answer was “because it’s tradition.”   He accepted it (I think) but, truthfully it felt a little lame to me.   I’m the kind of person who likes to know “why”.  I suspected the tradition had to do with the military but still…how did it start??

So, after that conversation the other night I got motivated to Google it.  And I came up with a satisfactory answer:

“Taking off hat/cap – in medieval Europe knights and soldiers had a helmet as a protection. Entering a home with a helmet on was a cause of serious concern. It was considered entirely unfriendly and a new custom emerged of taking of helmet and later whatever you were wearing on your head (ladies excluded).”

That makes total sense to me!  And it also explains why women don’t have to remove their hats – they wouldn’t have been soldiers in medieval Europe.  Now I can tell my son why he should take his hat off when entering a building…it’s tradition.  He he he.  But I can also say that it shows his good and peaceful intentions – a tradition that started with medieval soldiers.

What interested me, too, was what someone said in that above link (near the bottom) about how this tradition is archaic and should be dropped:

“My personal opinion is that this custom is a relic whose time has come
and long gone. The answer, as Bobbie has shown, is buried in ancient
customs and long since made irrelevant. Most people who follow it seem
to know nothing more than “it’s polite” and have no understanding of
why something as silly as having a head covering might be considered

Although I can see his point, I think customs are important.  Whether or not they seem irrelevant.  One or two irrelevant customs seem unimportant and might not even be missed when we stop observing them, but eventually we won’t have any.  None of those niceties that make us a civilized society.  Shaking hands, a custom that began with showing a person that you weren’t holding a weapon, also seems irrelevant these days.  Should we get rid of that, too?

I wasn’t going to teach them to call adults “Mr and Mrs”.  I was always told it was a show of respect, but I argued that just because you call someone a certain title doesn’t mean you respect them.  When my kids were little (1 and 2 yrs old), I was talking about this with a friend one day and he pretty much said “hog wash” to that.  We complain about kids not showing respect to adults these days but we’re letting go of all the little things to lead to it.  Maybe it starts with kids feeling like adults are on the same level as they are by calling them by their first name and then end ups with them flipping adults the finger.  I don’t know.  But I thought he made a valid argument.  Now, I also notice when a little 5 year old calls me Debbie like I’m her buddy or something. 

It’s funny the things that are important to me now as opposed to before I had kids.  Values, character, religion, and traditions just weren’t things I thought about a whole lot.  Not to say I didn’t have values, etc. but…I probably had fewer.  Those things take on a new meaning to me now that we’re raising children.  Customs enrich us, in my opinion.  Understanding the history behind them add depth to our personalities and character.  And they’re pretty interesting, too.


About Debbie

I am a stay at home mom of 2 energetic children. I homeschool them as well. I have a great husband who, after 7 years of working away from, finally has a job where he is home every night. We are trying to learn how to live together again along with adjusting to the lower pay that came along with the job change.
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7 Responses to Traditionally Speaking

  1. Carla says:

    I love customs. They teach us so much. If you wouldn’t have cared about the hat, you would have never found out the story behind it, which I find very interesting. I agree that some of this stuff we can let go of, but I see it in the same light as I see speaking and writing proper English. Once you know proper English and how to use it, then by all means feel free to break the rules. At least you know you’re breaking them. In terms of these customs, they show a certain level of class and education. You may not use these things all the time, but if you happen to be in the company of society where it’s expected, it’s nice to know that you can fit in regardless of what you do in other circumstances. Good post.

  2. Dawn says:

    Good points you make, and I also like what Carla had to say. Our older 2 kids are away for the weekend, and I saw the mom in whose home they are staying today. I asked if they were behaving and she told me “They are so good. Some teenagers aren’t polite and don’t say good morning or thank you, but your kids were said good morning in a cheerful way and they are just so polite”. It is not something required of them but they have learnt manners that they can use. I agree with the Mr. and Mrs thing and find it odd when kids call me by my first name. When our kids were little, they called some adults by their first name (at the adult’s request) but for some adults, I found it very odd to have my kids call them by their first name. We also taught our kids to remove ball caps when eating but they could wear them in the house. If it was a larger hat, I am sure we would have had them remove them. And it depends on the situation and what house they enter, again what Carla said about knowing the rules and being able to follow them when necessary.

  3. Debbie says:

    Good point! You DON’T have to always use them but, like you said Carla, at least you know how. One thing I left out of this post was that that link was an answer to a question by a teacher. She wanted to know the origin because her school was implementing a no-hats policy. Knowing the history behind it, I wonder if it ISN’T an irrevelant rule. Personally, I like it, but I can see the arguement against it.

  4. Pamela says:

    When someone comes into my home and doesn’t remove his hat — I get anxiety.. ha ha.
    Really – to me it is like not taking off your coat. It’s saying “I’m not staying.”

    However, that being said, I’ve grown accustomed to the little baseball style caps. Those don’t bother me so much.

  5. islephilosopher says:

    Sadly it is a custom in decline – although I have always adhered to this custom from childhood days.

    Although nowadays I am reluctant – given the bitter cold – and of course – the decline in one’s hair status 😥

  6. Dawn says:

    I can see Peter carrying on the tradition as he learnt in the times of it’s inception. At his age, with the declining hair status, it might be a good idea for him to adopt a custom of wearing a kerchief 😉 .

  7. islephilosopher says:

    Always retain a ‘Kerchief’ – and its boiled white 😉

    After all one never knows – when a ‘Lady’ is in need 🙂

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