As many multicultural families, our family was also challenged with making a decision about how to celebrate Christmas. Before the children were born I did not think about when I should receive and give Christmas presents. I lived so far from my country of origin, from my friends and from the traditions I grew up with, that I simply joined my husband and our friends for December 25th celebration. But then the kids were born and this has change me 180 degrees. I wanted so much to share with them the joy that I lived through year after year in my parents home. I wanted to see my children's smiles as they discover the presents under a Christmas tree, as I did back then. I wanted them be exited to decorate a Christmas tree. I wanted them to look forward to the winter holidays the same way I did. Not only because it was a present time, but because it was the time full of magic!
Before my son's first December has approached I talked to my husband. We discussed our values. I told him what was important for me and he shared what was important for him during the Christmas time and this is how we decided to celebrate our Christmas and New Year.
Our international Italian-Russian family starts decorating the house inside and outside in early December. For the moment we do not do the nativity scene, that is called "presepe" in Italian, but a Christmas tree. And we decorate it with ornaments that I picked at the local store and that my parents brought from Russia, my very very old child-safe paper and plastic ornaments that are so dear to me. (The glass ornaments have to wait until the kids are older). Even thought the Christmas tree is ready for December 24th, the children can find presents under it only on New Year. They still receive plenty of present from Italian relatives on Christmas day and do not feel excluded. I would not want them to!
Italian relatives for lunch on Christmas Day. Christmas sweets list for us does not became exhausted with two Italian traditional sweets:
The New Year celebration is a little party for our family with "Spumante" ( Italian champagne) for the big once and sparkling water for the small. The kids stay up until they feel tired and ready to go to bed on their own will, just to wake up in the morning to tier apart the wrapping paper from the gifts. Big thank you to Russian "Ded Moroz" or Italian Santa for brings presents to us, parents, as well and hanging chocolate mini-Santas all over the tree to make the kids day!
The new year started, but winter holidays celebrations for our family are not over yet. January the 7th is the Russian Orthodox Christmas day, which we also celebrate with a nice meal, even though I never celebrated it as a child. I believe children need to know that other religions do exist, and they can start learning about their differences from this simple thing - different days of celebrating birth of Christ.
Now you have learned how our international family celebrates Christmas and New Year. If your multilingual family is faced similar challenge and have to make a decision, I hope answering the following questions will help you:
What celebrations and rituals are important to you?
What can you do to support your spouse traditions?
When do you give children presents and how would you do it?
What do you need to explain your children about your traditions and possible differences?
Happy holiday season to you all!
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Why You Should Visit Italy During Winter Holiday Season and Why You Should Not.