“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie
Hanging tattered, yet treasured, ornaments on a freshly cut tree, writing and reading cards by the fireplace, rolling out the dough to make Great Grandma’s super secret cookie recipe—the holidays conjure up special moments relived and celebrated fondly each year at family gatherings. Our family traditions are oftentimes passed down from the many generations that came before us. It’s a time when we haul out carefully packed-away bins and boxes stuffed full of holiday sentiment stored from years past that evoke stories about family members and friends long since passed, serving to mix the past with the present if only in spirit.
When a family grows, we seek ways to include infants into this mix, by having a family portrait taken decked out in our red and green, hanging a new ornament made to mark her “first,” creating cute decorations with handprints and footprints, and of course, proudly introducing her to our time-honored traditions.
For children who have been adopted internationally and/or who come from a different background than that of their adopted family, the holidays are a perfect time to incorporate their heritage into your traditions. This does not mean foregoing your annual rituals, but enhancing your family’s holiday celebrations with new traditions that may be of importance to your child for years to come—some of which she may someday choose to celebrate when she has little ones of her own.
Bring it Home
Familiarize yourself with your child’s culture. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to Google how many other cultures and countries celebrate the holidays—from religious practices to holiday dress. WhyChristmas.com offers links on how Christmas is celebrated around the world as well as customs and traditions that you can easily incorporate into your family’s holidays.
Food is another great way to bring your child’s heritage into the holidays. Along with the usual (and don’t you dare not include it or else) main course and sides that your family looks forward to on your table each year, consider including special dishes prepared in your child’s birth country. If she is old enough, invite her to help research and prepare the meal. Wikipedia offers a long list of countries and foods unique to each, from sweets to after-dinner treats.
Song and Dance
Search for movies, listen to music, and find books that represent how your child’s birth country celebrates the holidays. Along with the carols you’re familiar with, let the sounds of the season ring through your house. From Youtube to online networks, it’s simple to search for and enjoy media that represent countries around the globe. WorldwideChristmas.com is just one of the many sites available.
Check for local celebrations in your community. Sometimes cultural centers will plan parties, festivals, or parades. Consider taking part. Check your community’s calendar of events, contact your local government, or check with your local newspaper to see what’s available to you. Can’t find anything that interests you? Consider choosing your own special day to celebrate a few fun festivities representing your child’s heritage. Invite family and friends to participate. Make this event even more fun by researching, planning, and preparing with your child.
A Learning Experience
“Education is the most powerful tool which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Some schools are open to learning about worldwide cultural celebrations and will incorporate them into the season’s study unit if appropriate. In addition to talking about traditions, students often enjoy hearing different songs, making crafts, or trying a new treat. Speak with your child’s teacher to see if you and your child could present some of the things that make the holidays special in his native land.
How do you incorporate your child’s heritage during the holidays? We’d love to hear about it.