By Angie Seth @kateygoalie
Holidays in a Tri-cultural Household
“It’s that Time of Year Again …. Christmas … plus Christmas!”
The holiday season is always a fantastic time of year for family and friends to get together and enjoy some time together. It’s welcome chaos that without the rush, the panic, the stress, the gossip, the laughter, and of course new memories, just wouldn’t be worth celebrating. Christmas is a perfect example of all of that wrapped in a big red bow!
As a child we celebrated Christmas every year. We put up a tree, exchanged presents … my Dad even dressed up as Santa and left presents for my sister and I in our and rooms and under the tree! It was a fantastic time of year. Wintertime for me meant two great things … Diwali and Christmas … wonderful time with family … and oh ya, lots of presents!
Fast-forward several years later and the tradition continues except in my household the chaos lasts longer! I am Hindu and my husband is Serbian. This is a very busy time of year for us. We celebrate three Christmases: Diwali, Christmas, and Serbian Christmas (Christian Orthodox). What it means for us is a lot of traditions we are teaching our children, lots of time with family and friends, and showing our children important religious values we hope they will continue with and pass onto their children.
Oh, yes, and there are presents … lots of presents. I like to say, by the time it is all over, we are bankrupted and have to start saving all over again come January 8th (the day after Serbian Christmas)!
For each celebration we do something unique so that our kids are very aware of each holiday, its significance, but also the similarities. The main theme is family and giving back to others. In fact this season we have started a new tradition of paying it forward by donating to the Shoebox Project. Basically we put together a shoebox full of goodies for women in shelters to receive at Christmas time. After spreading the word to other friends we were able to collect 20 boxes – not bad for a first year! Next year we hope to double or even triple that number.
No although Christmas has come and gone, the celebration in our household continues well pass New Years. Serbian Christmas is on January 7th. During that time of year we participate in a unique and very personal ceremony at my Mother-in-law’s place before going to Church. Candles, a prayer and the breaking of bread along with a lovely family breakfast marks the beginning of a day filled with celebration, prayer, and time with family and friends … and yes presents! Rather than putting up a Christmas tree, in each room of our house we place branches and leaves from an oak tree that have been blessed at Church. It represents a way of blessing the house and each family member.
It is definitely a juggling acting when it comes to keeping up our different traditions in our house, but we manage to keep the spirit alive and thriving each and every year. What is simply amazing though is how well my husband and I honor each other’s religious values. We both, over the years, have made a concerted effort to learn and understand one another’s culture so much so, that it has become our own. For any one trying to juggle more than one culture and tradition, I think learning, understanding, and respecting is the key.
For our children celebrating three holidays is normal, easy, and part of our life … We light candles, pray, exchange sweets, have a family dinner, open gifts, put up a tree, sing carols, open gifts from Santa, attend Christmas lunch, light more candles, say a pray, go to Church, exchange gifts, and finally enjoy a family dinner. The whole season has a lovely flow to it, that even when the process does get chaotic at times … ok a lot of the time … once it is over what we are left with are some amazing memories no chaos could ever ruin.
My kids really look forward to this time of year. Putting the whole getting presents business aside; I notice they are more aware of each other and wanting to spend more time together. And with having three children, at varied ages: almost 19 years old, 4 years old, and year and a half, keeping them interested can be tricky at times.
The trick is keeping them involved and as active participants. In the end, my eldest ends up teaching the younger two on what to do, and the two younger ones rely on her for support.
All in all my hope is that my eldest daughter will carry on these traditions with her younger sister and brother, and they too onto their respective families. So Happy Diwali, Merry Christmas, and Happy Serbian Christmas! I am blessed to be surrounded with so much tradition!
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