The holidays are here! And it can be a wonderful and stressful time, especially when you are trying to bring together different families, languages and cultures. I grew up celebrating Christmas and Navidad. Sure, you may think that they are the same thing, and in general we are celebrating the same thing, but the way two different cultures celebrate the same holiday can vary and can be very different. But, I grew up welcoming El Espiritu de La Navidad and writing letters to El Niño Jesus who would deliver our presents along with Santa on Christmas morning.
We spent the season eating hallacas and pan de jamón , putting on plays about Santa Clause, and looking for reindeer in the sky. We sang “El Niño Criollo” and “Mi Burrito Sabanero” along with “Rudolf the Red Nosed Rainder” and “Silent Night.” We would have all of our family together celebrating the 24th until the wee hours of the morning and my poor parents would then be woken up by us early on the 25th to open the presents sent from y grandmother and the ones brought by Santa Claus and El Niño Jesus.
Somehow, it just worked. And we sure enjoyed it! Now that we live in the U.S., our celebrations have expanded even more. In my house, we celebrate Christmas, Navidad and Hanukkah. It is both for spiritual reasons and discovering our heritage that we do, in fact, celebrate all of the Christian and Jewish feasts and holidays.
I started thinking about this topic a little when I read a wonderful article in the Guardian that talked about a Muslim couple who opened up their hearts and home to 3 Christian children right before Christmas in England. The evening the children came, these two people bought a Christmas tree and stayed up all night to wrap up the presents and decorate for these children who needed all the love they could get. The family grew together to experience each other’s cultures and ways in a truly moving story. (Read it Here)
And as unusual as that may seem, I look around and find that in so many of our homes the marrying of cultures and faiths is done in beautiful and fulfilling fashion. Living WITH each other is happening all around us.
One of my favorite examples comes from my friends Sunny and Kayla who have great mish-mash of holiday traditions. Sunny’s family celebrates Diwali, which is the Hindu festival of lights. It is celebrated in the month of Kartika, which falls around October or December every year. They put up the lights in celebration and leave them up into the Christmas season!
Now, they live in London and according to Kayla, have adapted some holiday traditions from the English, which she thinks are pretty fun. “Mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas crackers (traditionally served at the Christmas meal, it's popped open to reveal a crown, toy and joke inside) and their love of ugly Christmas jumpers. We give the Christmas pudding a miss though, bad stuff. We also get a bonus holiday for Boxing Day!”
Another great example of the coming together of two cultures is that of my friend Megan and her new husband Jason. They have come together and celebrate “Chrismaka” in a lovely way with the whole family. The marrying of two traditions (and the marriage of them) is beautifully celebrated in their holiday décor!
It has become a yearly ritual for my friend Sofija to host her Christmahanukwanza party. And just like it sounds, it’s a party to celebrate all three of those holidays. But it is so much more than that! Sofija already grew up celebrating Catholic Christmas (on December 25th) and Orthodox Christmas (on January 7th), but has always had friends from many different backgrounds and that is something she wanted to celebrate!
At her party, people from all kinds of different backgrounds and views come together to celebrate, share and enjoy each other’s company. It's a really fun time and let me say, the spread is amazing! Cevapi and rolls made by her family sit alongside lumpias made by her mother in law, along with curries, arepas (yup, that’s the Venezuelan in me), quail eggs, roasts, hams, vegetarian dishes, and so much more. There is a little piece of each one of us there to share with all of our friends who have become more like family.
So, as you look around this holiday season, just think to let your light shine. You can hold on and be true to your beliefs and ways of life, while still reaching across to those who are different and enjoying beautiful celebrations of life and love.
And to paraphrase my friend Cyrus; Happy Diwali, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad, Happy Three Kings Day, Happy New Year, Happy Omisoka…if you’re into any of that!
What about you? Do you have any stories of multicultural holidays to share with us? We would love to read them!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on English Safari, Spanish Safari and Reading Safari a game for children 4-10 years old who speak Spanish and want to learn English. You can follow her and the rest of the team on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.