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This report will explore the origin of Gypsies, their traditions, culture, and discrimination associated with them. By the end of this report the unique traditions and general culture of the Romani, generally known as Gypsies will be evident. Throughout the centuries, Roma (Gypsies) have been misunderstood by society. Due to their unique and indifferent culture, traditions, and lifestyle. Other cultures have become suspicious and fearful of them. This led to furious speculation, stereotypes and judgment of these misunderstood people. In general, most Europeans presume that Gypsies originate from Romania and although this is not the case, the image of the Romanian people has been maligned for decades.
Roma (Gypsies) do not originate in Romania or Egypt as is the common belief. The Roma’s are a nomadic tribe originating in India. In the second half of the 18th century evidence from scholars shows that Gypsies come from northern India. Professor Lub Kalaydjieva of the University of Western Australia and his team did a DNA study of eight to ten million people in Europe known as Gypsies. They have ten years experience studying Romani genetics. They discovered that Romani (Gypsies) originate from India. Another indication that Gypsies come from India are the similarities between Indian language, Sanskrit and the language spoken by the Roma. Language, numerals, kinships terms, names of body parts, music and similarities exist between Indian and Roma.
Traditionally, each Romani family or clan has a trade or profession which is followed and passed on from generation to generation. One of the things Romani are known for are of their skilled trades. Horse dealers and horse breeders are one of them. They could diagnose the illnesses of horses and find ways to heal them. They also are known for their ability to change horse shoes. The Roma also established a good name for themselves by being very skilled blacksmiths. This was one of the oldest and the mainstay of Romani trades. Today not many Romani are committed to blacksmithing but rather making candle holders, mountings, latticework and many other artistic objects.
Another well established profession for the Roma is that of a coppersmith. They are well known for their master craftsmanship and currently make pots and tin caldrons. In Romania, Hungary and other Balkan countries they still practice the wood carving profession they brought with them from India. Carving utensils like spoons and troughs for people that are in need of them. A spoon maker in Romania and the Balkans is called Lingurar. Croatia and Hungary they have a different name for a spoon maker, called Bejas. Among other trades such as; leather workers, bear and snake trainers, sharpening knives, making unfired bricks from clay, musician, farmers and other trades they had to master to make a living.
It seems surprising to some that some Romani are educated and in highly regarded positions. There are some among us today that have established careers for themselves such as; doctors, lawyers, car mechanics, computer programmers and so on.
One of the Romani traditions is to get married at the age fifteen. To distinguish between non married and married women is to notice that married women have their head covered with a cloth called “Batic”. The Batic (head-kerchief) represents the symbol of married women. The first step to get married is for the boy’s parents to send a messenger to the girl’s parent’s house with all kinds of gifts. Typically, the girl’s parents receive wine and money. Once the messenger arrives at the house he confronts the girl’s father and lets him know who he was sent by. The messenger asks the father if he approves of his daughters marriage. Once he approves the wedding, than he informs Council. The Council is the older man in the community. The girl’s father asks the council if they approve as well. If they do, than the messenger has to offer to buy all the people in the community drinks. To settle the wedding day the boy’s parents and relatives go the girl’s house, except the groom. In the Roma community there are some strict rules that it must be followed for the marriage to go on.
- If the father of the bride is not wealthy, he has right to demand money for his daughter. It all depends on the beauty of the bride. If his quantity is not met, than he has the right to call off the wedding.
- If the father of the bride is wealthy, he doesn’t have the right to inquire for any money.
- Normally upscale people stick with their own kind. They wed their kids with a wealthy family.
- On no account a poor man will ever ask for “bori” (daughter in law) from a well-off
- In some cases the man’s poor daughter gets married with a wealthy man only if the boy
finds her very attractive.
- The future in-laws negotiate the girl’s contributions before the completion of the
The following are the normal gifts that the girl gets from the future in-laws:
- 50 skirts of 5 m long each
- 50 aprons of 2 m long each
- skirts of 3 m long each
- 50 handkerchiefs
- 50 shirts
- Three large pillows of 1m stuffed with goose feathers
- A big necklace with gold coins
The smallest necklace has ten golden coins on it. Gradually the necklace gets bigger with gold coins depending of the wealth of the bride’s father. Usually a necklace will never reach 100 golden coins. Other contributions may be presented such as; various cooking pots, plates, carpets & furniture. It is the obligation of the mother of the bride to give her daughter everything that is needed for her new home.
The Wedding day
For the first day of the wedding, one woman from the bride’s side and one from groom’s side are to help dress the bride with her white dress. Not just any woman can be picked from any sides. They had to have the following criteria’s; not to be married more the once, she had to be a virgin on her wedding, be wealthy, hard worker, have kids and have unity in her family. The wedding lasts minimum of 3 days to a week eating, drinking and dancing. In this day and age, some Roma enclose their weddings at restaurant having two hundred to three hundred guests. All the wedding guests give gifts to the newly-weds. Once the wedding is finished the bride has to cover her head with a scarf. The only person she is permitted to show her hair to is her husband. These traditions are practiced within many Roma communities, but unfortunately in big towns and cities these traditions are slowly disappearing.
Another Roma tradition is baptism. Once a woman knows she is pregnant she informs her husband and other women in her clan. She becomes isolated and taken care of only by the women. Normally, the pregnancy takes place in someone else’s tent, trailer or house so their own home doesn’t become sinful. After two weeks or three the baptism takes place. The child is purified by the water at the baptism. Only after the ceremony, people then are allowed to say the child’s name and take any pictures of the child.
Isn’t it extraordinary that the majority of us never heard of the Romani Holocaust? Is it because it was not brought to our attention like the Jewish Holocaust? Maybe the education in school has a small part to do with it or the mass media. We all know about the Jewish Holocaust one way or another. The Holocaust started between 1933 to 1945 when Adolf Hitler was in power, and annihilating of more than six million Jews. Jews were the main target but besides them another 5.5 millions of others such as Romani, Sinti, homosexuals, and others that were against Nazi regime, were mass murdered. History shows that Gypsies were hated and persecuted as much as the Jews. In 1935 a new Law came into effect called “Nuremberg Law”. This Law was created to forbid any Gypsy marriages with white people. In January 1940 at Buchenwald a concentration camp was established. A tragic month, were two hundred and fifty Romani kids are used as experiment the cyanide gas crystal. August 2nd and 3rd of 1944, it was one of the horrifying days of the Romani history, were several thousand Romani were massacred at the Zigeunerlager in Auschwtiz-Birkenau concentration camp. The number of Romani massacres is unknown due to lack of documentation. Scholars estimated to be between 250,000 to 500,000 thousand, but it could be more. Not many survived as prisoners of war. If they wouldn’t die from starvation, they passed away from diseases or brutality. If not killed from the medical experiments they were submitted to, they would die from poisonous gas or execution.
Nazis developed a system to speed up the process of the mass elimination. They made six more extermination centers by which they could mass murder people by gas and body disposal threw cremating their bodies. It is sad to say, that 70% to 80% of the Romani population had been annihilated by the Nazi regime by the end of the war in 1945.
There are more than twelve million Roma located in many countries around the world. Unfortunately, it is hard know the exact numbers of Roma population in the world. Due to the discrimination people fear to disclose their true identity as Romani.
Romani people have been discriminated throughout history and still nowadays their situation it has not gotten any better than before. They are not given the equal opportunity to advance in our society. Most of us do not know very much about Romani traditions, culture, and history. Therefore, most of the stereotypes come from the stories and the mass media. The discrimination that is still happening all around the world but mostly in Europe is as strong as ever. This has stopped Romani people to get access to jobs, social security systems, services and housing. One incident that occurred in the Czech Republic was highly publicized on CBC News. A young man at 17 year of age, walking home was confronted by prejudiced group of skinheads. Threaten him by saying today he will die. He was thrown on the ground and insolated and beaten so badly that he had to be hospitalized for a week. Now 24 year of age and living in Hamilton, Ontario the victim is happy not to worry that someone will jump him when walking down the street due to his nationality. Discrimination continues to occur in Europe like Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia and others countries through segregation. There are established separate schools only for Romani children. In other words, they are branded as “Gypsy schools”. Where there is low standard of teaching and poor material conditions. Governments around Europe need to change policy to end educational segregation of the Romani people. Romani children need to receive equal opportunities in education as the non Romani students so they can achieve the same or better goals in life. Without the right education, they are not able to succeed in our society. With a good education they will be able to succeed through better careers and opportunities, thereby being able to support themselves and their families.
I believe no race or human being should be discriminated against. We all deserve the right of freedom and equal rights. We should all take some time to read and explore and understand about one another culture and traditions. Let’s not be judgmental and jump to conclusions of what we hear in our mass media these days. We are all humans, and we all make mistakes one way or another. Some more than others and some less. If some people from the same nationality like Romani make mistakes and break the law by stealing, mugging, or other acts of violence. We should not stereotype and conclude that all the Romani people are the same. They deserve a chance to show that they are better than what they are exploited by others.
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