5 Ways We Celebrate my Adopted Child’s Culture During the Holidays
It’s 6 a.m. on Christmas morning and this momma is tired. I spent weeks and months preparing for this blessed holiday. The house is super clean and ready for in-laws. There are pies in the fridge next to a thawing turkey. Our Christmas tree is covered in meaningful ornaments, tinsel, and so many lights. Every surface of the house is festive and fun. As mothers, we want it to be perfect; and, as a mom through adoption, I sometimes feel extra pressure. I am a mother to a beautiful Indian girl, the wife to an Italian, and I myself am part Filipino. Trying to incorporate all our family traditions, cultural customs, and more is exhausting and this season is already tiring for so many moms that just want it to be perfect. Well, the good news is that it can be simple to include and celebrate your adopted child’s culture! This is how our family does it.
1. Don’t be weird
I know that sounds silly, but really—just don’t make it weird. It is normal for us to eat an Indian rice dish next to a traditional Christmas turkey. We have a nativity set that depicts people of color. We just make multiculturalism a normal part of daily lives so that when Christmas and other holidays come around, we just continue with that. If you need some ideas, check out these tips on how to make multiculturalism a normal part of your home. Our normal may just be someone else’s weird, but we just choose not to care.
Sometimes, we as parents get so caught up in what we should be doing; but just including our child’s culture into our celebrations makes our family culture even more rich and fun. We don’t call it an Indian, Filipino, or Italian Christmas. We simply include traditions from all our families and cultures and it makes for an amazing Christmas day.
2. Prepare food and traditional holiday meals from each culture
Our first Thanksgiving as a family was on the floor of our hotel room in India eating takeout from the vegan restaurant downstairs. There was no turkey or meat of any kind and it was not traditional in any way. The next year I wanted to have an Indian Thanksgiving. I wanted to serve dishes like Tikka Masala and Dal Makhani with naan instead of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. Thanksgiving is an American holiday, so why was I trying to stress myself out by making it something else? Now we just eat typical American Thanksgiving food, but no matter the holiday, we have at least one side that is Indian. We didn’t change the whole holiday; we added to it, and that is what is beautiful about our family culture. I want my daughter to know and love her Indian culture, and so we keep it alive throughout the year with food.
We also celebrate Indian holidays and that is when we really celebrate Indian food! Who doesn’t love a good and spicy Biryani? We research the traditional meals and do our best to recreate them.
We use my husband’s Italian grandmother’s pie crust recipe and tell our daughter about Nona who immigrated from Italy when she was only 13 years old. We wrap Filipino lumpia on Christmas Eve like my aunties did when I was a little girl. I teach my Indian daughter how to wrap so my Filipina aunties will be proud. Food is one of the easiest ways to make holidays special; I love to eat spicy samosas with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy on Christmas Day.
3. Listen to music
This is super easy! We listen to music from all around the world. Christmas music is fresh and new when listened to in Hindi. With the myriad of streaming services and websites, there is more access to music than ever before. It is so fun to hear classic songs in a new way. Our tradition is we start listening to Christmas music in October so we have time to listen to music from all around the world.
4. Exchange Christmas cards
We are blessed to be a part of an online group of families who have all adopted a child from India. There are families from all stages of life and they are an amazing source of friendship and understanding. We make a big list and mail each family our Christmas cards because we live all across the country. We get to see families that look like us. We are blessed to have a diverse group of friends and my daughter is still the only child from India. These Christmas cards stay up on our fridge for most of the year and they bring us so much joy to read the stories and see the pictures of the beautiful families that like us are trying to bring their children’s culture into the holidays and create wonderful lasting memories.
5. Keep it simple
I, like many mothers, can make holidays insufferable trying to force everyone to have a special memory. I may be repeating myself here, but simple is often better.
For holidays that we have in the US as well as India, we add traditions to our home. For example, Christians in India hang beautiful star lanterns to represent the star of Bethlehem. We buy handmade lanterns and hang them over our nativity. We didn’t replace our Christmas tree star, we added to that tradition. We have special ornaments an Indian artist made. We have an airplane ornament, and each year we talk about our journey across the world to meet our daughter.
We listen to what our child cares about and keep what is important and let the rest fall to the side. If she wants to wear a full Sari for special occasions, we let her; but sometimes, she just wants to wear a red and green Christmas dress instead. That is also ok!
I too often want to overdo it with the holidays and force traditions into every single joyful minute. The reality is that our children often see the smallest effort and don’t need a Bollywood-inspired Christmas tree. We celebrate our child’s culture every day, but it seems there is more pressure to do it in the holiday season. We take a deep breath and keep the best of it and let the rest fall away. So, as I eat milk sweets on Christmas Day, I will hug my sweet little girl and thank God I live in a country where we are free to celebrate all of what makes us a family.