Just realized that this is going to be another ex-pat post! I guess there's nothing like the holidays to prompt some cultural analysis.
|Bulletin Board Christmas re-do|
It's harder to pass on traditions when it isn't reinforced by the world around you when you walk out the door of your house! I am genuinely happy for my new parent (or aunt/uncle) friends who are able to take the kiddies to pumpkin patches, dress them in turkey onesies, and sit them on Santa's knee...followed by a spring photo shoot in pastels for Easter! These are very positive, fun traditions. But since they are mostly driven by culture and a nostalgia for one's childhood, they can quickly go from inspiring to irrelevant once you live abroad or don't celebrate with your siblings anymore.
I know I have often written on my blog about making new traditions. Maybe I even write the same thing each year and then forget about it. But I'm new to making traditions while parenting, so I still have a lot of unanswered questions for this stage of life.
Today I was thinking to myself...how do you explain this whole "Christmas season" thing to someone outside the American/Western culture? I'm really wondering this. What are elves? Who is Santa? Why red and green? Why snow? Why is it important to get in the "Christmas spirit"?
Is it okay if the answer is simply that they were your own traditions growing up and you are now passing them on? Of course! Maybe it is even better than reading too much into them. But when the time comes to pass them on, it gets more complicated if you are the main channel through which the customs are taught. In your native culture, the "teaching" might begin with a question about something observed (Who was that bearded guy in a red suit at the mall?). But when you don't have that context, it takes more effort to both introduce and reinforce these concepts. If my family is going to make a tradition of watching "Elf" each year, for example, there is a lot of context there. Will it be worth it if I have to explain the jokes (Andrei, thankfully, is very astute when it comes to cross-cultural humor)?
When I think about my main priorities, one thing I am highly invested in is language development. The information that I fail to pass on (partly because I'm just one person) can be found in books, letters, stories, and conversations. As long as David is able (and willing) to read his Bible, he will know the story of Jesus' birth and its significance. He will be able to look up Christmas recipes online. He will watch Christmas movies if he wants to and he will be able to talk to relatives about holidays past and present.
Even the Sunday school materials from when I was a kid are a little archaic. I can recognize that, so some creativity is needed. But there are still plenty of time-tested traditions that will be good to pass on.
A question remains as to cultural education. Should I be concerned about David's awareness of American culture, in order to eventually have something in common with his peer group? Okay, I know he's a toddler, but is it going to be bad if he gets to high school without partaking in a Thanksgiving dinner? I don't know...I just think about these things.
|Cleared a shelf off for Advent paraphernalia, but it pretty much got trashed...|