Georgia's population has changed remarkably during the past thirty years, with new ethnic groups arriving from all over the world. These immigrants
Georgia's Ethnic Groups
Centuries ago, Georgia's native populations, which included Creek and Cherokee Indians and other Native American groups, were joined by settlers from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, and other European countries and by enslaved Africans from various groups in West Africa. Georgia also has had a substantial Jewish population since its settlement in 1733, when a shipload of Sephardic (Spanish and Portuguese) and Ashkenazic (German) Jews arrived in Savannah from England.
Contemporary Georgians of Native American ancestry, as well as African Americans, Scottish and Irish Americans, and other early European Americans, participate in celebrations of their ethnic histories.
In recent years the economic prosperity of Atlanta and the Sunbelt, along with successful refugee resettlement programs, have made Georgia a magnet for new settlers. Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees who began coming to Georgia in the mid-1970s have been followed by more-recent refugee populations, including Somalians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Ukrainians, Russians, and Arabs.
When a group immigrates to a new country, its members find that they have to modify their way of life, including their celebrations of significant events. An event that may last for days in the homeland shortens to adjust to the American workweek and to the new physical and commercial environment. In China, Vietnam, and Korea, for example, the New Year celebration is a multiday event permeating entire towns and cities, but on American soil it becomes a smaller weekend event at a local community center. Generally, immigrants find ways to maintain the most essential elements of such events.
Types of Celebrations
New Year celebrations can occur at any time, depending upon the calendar followed. They take place at community centers, places of worship, or in people's homes.
Independence Day marks a significant historical event—the day a country was founded or reclaimed. For those no longer living in their home country, Independence Day draws people from the same country together. Whatever their differences in background—because of region, group affiliation, or religion—Independence Day can be celebrated by all. Mexicans, Koreans, Pakistanis, Ghanaians, and many others groups celebrate their respective occasions. They usually fly the American flag alongside that of their homeland, and they often gather to celebrate American independence on July the Fourth as well.
Carnival—most familiarly known in the United States as the Mardi Gras celebration—is widespread throughout the Western world. The name carnival is from Latin, meaning to take meat away. Carnival is celebrated before Lent, which is the period of fasting (generally, abstaining from consumption of meat) that lasts for forty days preceding Easter, and which is commonly observed by Roman Catholics and some Protestants. In Georgia, Carnival celebrations are held by Brazilians, Cajuns, Caribbean immigrants, Germans, and others. Revelry and costuming are commonly found in Carnival celebrations.
Some ethnic events relate to life cycle events like birth or naming ceremonies, coming of age, weddings, and funerals. These occasions also offer a time for people of the same ethnicity to share traditional foods, wear traditional dress, and enjoy customs that connect them with their homelands and with one another.
Not all ethnic celebrations relate to annual calendars or to life cycle events;
Many celebrations are attended only by community members. They may be small, involving members of a single family, or quite large, involving hundreds of people sharing the same ethnic background.
Hennig Cohen and Tristram Potter Coffin, eds., The Folklore of American Holidays (Detroit: Gale, 1991).
Gary Laderman, ed., Religions of Atlanta: Religious Diversity in the Centennial Olympic City (Alpharetta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1996).
Margaret Read MacDonald, ed., The Folklore of World Holidays (Detroit: Gale, 1992).
Janice Morrill, "Days to Remember: Atlanta's Cultural Calendars," Atlanta History 37 (fall 1993).
Janice Morrill, Atlanta
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