The Culture Of The Roma Gypsies
Fans of classical and contemporary literature continue to be fascinated by the culture of the Roma Gypsies. This mysterious and nomadic group is said to have originated in northern India then migrated to Europe. The fact that this group has no fixed place of abode, are wary of outsiders and this has led to their stigmatization and persecution. In modern times this fear has been replaced by fascination and even admiration.
The term Gypsy originated as a misnomer because they were often mistaken for Egyptians. They developed a bad reputation because their appearance and customs differed from those around them and their nomadic lifestyle contributed to their reputation as thieves and vagabonds. Because the Roma moved frequently and never established themselves as contributing members of the wider community they were seen as a drain on resources and were often blamed for when items went missing. Regardless the fascination with Roma music and art created opportunities for as performers and entertainers. It is in this manner that they are most often portrayed in literature and film.
The Roma are not a homogeneous group their culture is heavily influenced by that out the predominant culture in the places where they reside. Originally from the south Asian continent, they practiced Hinduism but interaction with Catholicism and Protestant Christianity has led to significant changes in their belief system. The Roma live by a code of conduct which guides their everyday interactions. They value purity and cleanliness, family life and tradition. The bohemian fashion trend was influenced by gypsy attire. Flowing skirts and head wraps were worn by women to portray modesty while their gold jewelry conveyed their wealth.
Casual interaction between males and females continue to be taboo and dating is discouraged. The most looked forward to social event on the gypsy calendar is a wedding. This is one of the few events when youths of both sexes are allowed limited interaction with each other. It is at events such as these that parents seek out prospective spouses for their children culminating in arranged marriages. It is also not uncommon for teenagers to elope. Brides try to outdo each other with the opulence of their gowns and accessories.
The culture of the Roma Gypsies has managed to evolve and survive across the ages. Although frequently misunderstood their commitment to family, community and tradition is something to be admired.