Children and youngsters in folk culture
The importance of children and youngsters in folk culture is immense. The twofold contact with culture is similar to all – on the one hand there is the possibility to participate through singing, playing an instrument, dancing, acting, doing handicrafts or other similar activities, on the other hand there’s the possibility to be on the receiving end as a viewer, listener or reader.
In a historical sense, culture for children and youngsters extends to the period where children and youngsters participated in clubs at civic centres or performed at various amateur shows on holidays. When did that all start, is hard to say. Nowadays children become exposed to culture already from a very young age, for example, at baby play groups.
Participating in culture is often done through hobbies. However, in learning new skills, there is the need or wish to showcase it. This is where such events as concerts, festivals, competitions or exhibitions come into play. And all of this should be offered to children and youngsters.
The tradition of song and dance celebrations touches very many Estonians. In 2019, we will be celebrating 150 years from the first song celebration. This is a tradition from our ancestors that we are to hand over to the next generations. In order to make sure the tradition would remain viable, song and dance celebrations for the youth were started in 1962. The upcoming XII Youth Song and Dance Celebration in 2017 marks, therefore, the 55th birthday of the celebration.
In the field of folk culture, there is another subcategory relevant to children and youngsters – spiritual cultural legacy. This includes the beliefs, traditions, customs and skills of our ancestors that have managed to survive for more than three generations. Cultural legacy has formerly been handed down from a generation to another within the family, however nowadays there are new possibilities for such exchange. The most widespread way to pass on cultural legacy is trainings that take place at schools, often on an extracurricular basis. The subject of regional languages in our regional cultures (seto, mulgi, kihnu, võru) is a good example of such training sessions. Although the ability to speak regional languages has been forgotten in many regions, teaching children and youngsters these languages has picked up again as such language acquisition is encouraged also through language nests at kindergartens and through selective courses at schools.
The culture of children and youngsters plays an important role in the development of a young person. Self-participation in music, theatre and dance grows interest in these forms of art. There is no doubt that through all that we raise a generation of theatre, concert and exhibition audience. Additionally, this may influence the youngsters in choosing their profession, ensuring the future of our culture activists and creators. Children and youngsters have a crucial role in ensuring the preservation of cultural traditions.
Text by: Eino Pedanik, Folk Culture Adviser at the Cultural Heritage Department of the Ministry of Culture