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Monday, December 16, 2013

When to give your child Christmas presents - an international family challenge.

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!
boy opening christmas presents

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.

Since I grew up during the Soviet time, there was no Christmas celebration. Everyone celebrated a New Year. Everything Western world does for Christmas, Russians did  and still do for a New Year. There are big family gatherings, dinners, parties, fireworks, carnivals you name it! Everything but there was no church of cause.  The Italian traditions are different from what I am used to. One day I will write a post about a Christmas  celebration in Italy to give you more insides. ( And here it is! CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS in ITALY ) So we had to compromise and this is what we settled on.

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 though 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!

PanettoneWe celebrate Christmas Eve within our family by preparing a nice traditional dinner and join our Panettone and Pandoro. (see a full list of Italian traditional Christmas sweets here). The time we spend in Germany made its imprint on out taste buds. We do not see Christmas table without Lebkuchen and Stollen, the German traditional sweets! This year I plan to include my family tradition and bake some sugar filled "Plushki". Just writing this brings me back to the time I spent with my grandfather  preparing the sweets. He actually was our family's great cook!
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!

You might also like reading:

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.

How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child. 

How to read to a baby?  

Visiting Italy in Spring. Your picture guide.

Why You Should Visit Italy During Winter Holiday Season and Why You Should Not.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you came up with a great compromise! I think the kids will really enjoy getting to celebrate the holidays so many different ways!