Endangered Cultural Traditions You Didn’t Know About

Scissor Dance in Peru, Photo by hugo

All over the world, traditions are in danger of dying out. These include rituals, performances, dances, oral traditions, arts, crafts, and local knowledge.

Each year, the UNESCO World Heritage Intangible Program selects practices at risk and provides funding and support. If interested, check out the 2010 list.

Traditions of the US, Canada, UK, and Australia are not represented at all, however. These countries aren’t members of the UNESCO Intangibles Program and sadly cannot nominate their own dying practices.

As you might imagine, global traditions risking extinction range from the mainstream to wacky. Here are just some of my “favorites.”

Wouldn’t the world be a dismal place if we lost these things forever?

Human Towers in Spain

Photo by limpadgham

Painted oxcarts in Costa Rica

Photo by stevendepolo

Lace tradition from Alsace, France

Photo by -jer-

Vanuatu Sand Drawings

Photo by flissphil

What local tradition from your country would you nominate?

I’ll go first. On behalf of the United States, I would nominate square dancing, southern cooking, and RC cola.


11 thoughts on “Endangered Cultural Traditions You Didn’t Know About

  1. How sad that the US, Canada and Australia are not represented at all! So, so many wonderful traditions (not the least from the indigenous populations in all 3 countries!) To your awesome list, I’d add the wonderful ancient hula (not the more-cheesy modern stuff) from Hawaii and the islands’ almost-lost art of textile-making from tree pulp. đŸ™‚

  2. Great post Mary! Wow, indeed a remarkable list of unknown cultural traditions.
    I believe local people don’t value their own traditions as much as foreigners do. For example in Holland, we have this great tradition where people dance in their wooden shoes. But locals think it is boring and so out of today’s world. But foreigners value it and yes I believe we should protect these great traditions! Thanks for reminding us.

  3. I don’t think Southern cooking is in danger of dying out Lol! I’ve seen the Costa Rican oxcarts and it would be criminal if the practice died out.I’d nominate some of the Gullah traditions such as basket weaving and dialect that is practiced in the South Carolina Sea Islands but struggles to survive.

  4. Luminarias in the southwest. People have ditched the old school paper bags with sand and candles for plain ol’ LED string lights. They were so beautiful and I enjoyed seeing them every year growing up in El Paso.

  5. I want to nominate RC Cola too. I haven’t had that in years. I had to do square dancing when I was in grade school, but I don’t think they do it anymore. I actually saw some painted oxcarts when I was in Costa Rica and they’re really beautiful. I can’t believe it’s an endangered tradition! This is really an informative post. I’m glad that there is a UN group tracking this.

  6. Jed Worthen

    I remember as a kid my parents drinking RC Cola out of 32 oz glass bottles. Seems like glass soda bottles are going the way of cassette tapes. My patrnal grandfather was born in Arkansas so i’ve had some Southern food & it would be a shame if it died out. Read some of your writings on Matador. Glad to read your blog now as well.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Jed,
      The world just wouldn’t be the same without southern cooking! Thanks for checking out my blog from Matador!

  7. Deb

    I don’t think square dancing is dying. I just took square dance lesson beginning last Jan. It is so much fun, great exercise, and a great social enviroment to meet wonderful people. I will be helping to teach the beginners this year when our club has lessons again.

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