Numerous International couples come from 2 different home countries, and together with their families, they live in a 3rd host country. What happens when the holidays roll around? Which traditions stay, and how do we blend and incorporate new traditions from different cultures?
Text: Kathy Borys Siddiqui
International Families - just as quilts - are made up of patches that represent cultural experiences, traditions, and countries they have lived in. These types of cultural blending are undeniable during festivities.
It is not always about decorations, fairy lights, and cosy blankets during the festive season.
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Traditions of our own
Resilience is a go-to skill of all Internationals. We all have it and use it at times, even subconsciously. It allows us to deal with change, challenging situations and bounce back. Celebrating holidays abroad requires resilience. As multicultural families, we also need compromise and communication. The reason why I mention resilience is that our past ways of celebrating will undergo change and that requires us to be open and aware of what will come. When we focus on what is important to both ourselves and our spouse/partner, it is easier to create new traditions. Keep in mind that it is alright to have unique ways of celebrating if they work for your family and bring you joy!
The sack of guilt
It is not always all about decorations, fairy lights, and cosy blankets during the festive season. At times we might be faced with the burden of carrying the sack of guilt over our shoulder. This particular one deals with going back home for the holidays. For various reasons, many of us have had to make a decision not to go back home, and this can be a difficult pill to swallow for all. For us there is immense guilt that we are letting our loved ones down and that we will miss out on family celebrations, catching up with family members and friends. For those back home, it is often a feeling of being left behind and not being as important to us as they used to be. It is not easy to balance life abroad and family ties in our home countries. Preparing everyone in good time for what will happen during the Holidays can make life easier. When family members are aware of challenges ahead of time, it can make accepting certain decisions easier.
The only thing we can do is go for compromises, communicate our feelings and needs, know that we can not be in two places at once, and finally that our hearts are with our loved ones. OH yes - we can also be thankful for all the possibilities we have to connect, see one another and at least be virtually present during the celebrations.
Down the nostalgic memory lane
Holidays often allow us to take a walk down memory lane, reflecting on our childhood and the traditions of our families. This nostalgic trip can give a lot of important information as to what we would like to implement and celebrate in our own international families. By asking ourselves which traditions are important to us, and more significantly why are they important, we gain insight. This information allows us to emphasise the importance of our cultural heritage and initiate a conversation about creating our blended family traditions. There is no doubt that our cultural identity is very important to all of us living abroad, and in multicultural families, it carries great significance. Each spouse/partner has the sole responsibility to carry on and pass on to their family members the traditions. The wonderful aspect of this is that when two people from different cultural backgrounds come together they can create a rich and open-minded environment that calls for celebrations each day.