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).” http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=250753
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.