The Gypsy Lifestyle | Everything You Need To Know About the Roma Culture
Gypsy, often counted as a colloquial term, is used to describe tribes of people who travel around the world, without settling anywhere. These groups do not have a single or permanent home. Rather, they wander all over the world, leaving their mark in different cultures.
The Roma culture has a history of rich culture and tradition, which is still followed to this day. Although there are some alterations in the coming generations, the culture still holds its values close to them.
The gypsy culture involves two tribes, the Roma Gypsies and Irish Travellers. While both are wanderers, the Roma gypsies are a different category of an ethnic group. The Roma culture has gained a lot of popularity through the mainstream media with the promulgation of reality series, which show the distinct lifestyle of these individuals.
How the wandering started
According to historical text, it has been reported that the gypsies were always on the move to survive. In the early 1950s, the Romani tribe was under racial subjugation by the Europeans as a result of their dark skin. The gypsies were also struggled with slavery and were often referred to as thieves, fortune tellers or magicians.
In fact, a law was passed by the English Parliament in 1954, which concluded being a gypsy a crime severe enough to be prosecuted by death. The Roma tribe, therefore, moved from place to place to avoid the death sentence.
Due to the constant wandering, the Roma tribe didn’t excel in the department of literacy. Their drifting lifestyle made it impossible to attain theoretical knowledge. Most of the knowledge the tribe had was passed down as a result of stories. Even today, most of the women in Roma subgroups, do not receive a secondary education.
Additionally, Roma’s nomadic lifestyle was not safe from Germans either. During World War II, there were distinct concentration camps for Roma tribes called, Zigeunerlager, which was derived from the German word gypsies, “Zigeuner.” This roughly translated to the ‘untouchables’ or the ‘racially inferior.’
For the Roma tribe, religion is not constant. Their world view or “Rromanipé” believes that the individual must live by a certain set of rules. The regulations cover the area of cleanliness, purity, mutual respect, honour, and justice. Their idea of religion is to live with respect and dignity.
While they are deeply spiritual, they do not follow a single religion. Instead, they embrace the leading faith followed in the country they are residing in. They label themselves as “many stars scattered in the sight of God.” Their subgroups follow religion ranging from Muslim, Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Protestant or Anglican.
The language they follow
The Roma tribe speak the language of whatever tribe they reside in. however, they all have one common language, “Rromanës.” This language is the combination of Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, and a few terms are taken from the English language.
This influence from the South Asian culture is due to the origin of the Roma tribe. While most people perceive that the tribe’s origin is from Poland, recent research has revealed that the Roma’s originated from the regions of Punjab and Sindh, located in India and Pakistan.
For the Roma culture, the family is everything. The one stability in their lives is their family. The tribes comprise of large families, which often reside under the same roof. The parents live with their children, their daughters-in-law, and their grandchildren.
Additionally, this tribe marries at a very young age. A typical Romani teenage starts looking for a wife at the early age of 15. At that stage, women are expected to dress provocatively to impress the males. However, teens refrain from sexual intercourse until after their marriage.
The group restricts the youth from interaction with the opposite gender. In most families, dance parties are arranged inside the house with other members of the families.
A strange custom which has gained a lot of media attention, the Kalaidzhi Roma’s bride market. This subgroup of the Romani tribe resides in Bulgaria, with a population of around 18,000 people. As these subgroups only marry within the community, they hold a bride market once a year.
The annual bride market is held at a church, where thousands of Roma travel to find a bride in exchange for money. The value of the bride is determined by her physical features or how attractive the male finds her. This is the only event in the culture where male and female of the tribe gets to interact. Similar to the Roma customs, the bride must be a virgin at the time of marriage. In case she is not a virgin, her value is reduced to nothing.
In some cases, the Kalaidzhi Roma girls run away with the men they like, so the guy would not have to pay a large amount of money to the family. However, these women are usually cast out of the community.
On the day of the bride market, the women dress up in brand new clothes, wear a lot of makeup and drive to the church to interact with men. Mostly, women wear makeup to make themselves look fairer. This common perception in the Kalaidzhi Roma subgroup is that the fairness of their skin defines the person’s beauty.
The Roma tribe lives with honour. Their homes reflect religion, spirituality, and the blessings of nature. The women cover themselves in headdresses covered in gold coins and usually a lot of jewellery.
The tribe genuinely believes that generosity fosters social relationships. They often open up their homes to others and make them feel welcome.
To this day, the Roma tribe still follows its customs and traditions. However, instead of wandering, they have now settled in specific areas. While the introduction of technology has increased the youth’s exposure to the different practices around the world, the community is still engulfed in its traditions.
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