Multicultural Christmas


Merry [belated] Christmas and Feliz Navidad!

Holidays can be a funny thing when you get married. Not only are you having to blend each others’ way of doing things, but also adapting to each other’s families. The more different you are from your spouse, the bigger the gap you need to close as you find what works for your new little family. Since Whit and I grew up in different countries (US / Honduras respectively), we not only had to adapt to each other and our families, but also to our cultures. Some holidays are very similar, some not so much, and some don’t even exist on each other’s home countries!

As far as celebrating Christmas goes, it’s changed through the years. Now that we have kiddos, suddenly we both started to get more passionate about passing down traditions from when we were kiddos ourselves. We have had to compromise a bit more (even argue sometimes!) as we come up with what we want for our own little family. We have been able to blend some of it very well, and some areas still need work!

Current Christmas Blend

1. Travel

Before we had kids, I would take two weeks of vacation at the end of the year and we tried to adapt to each other’s families and travel schedules as much as possible. With a multicultural (and international!) family, there’s always some sort of traveling involved since my immediate family is spread out in three different countries (US, Honduras, and Canada); Whit’s family is closer but still a few hours away. For a couple of years it was simpler to do an early Christmas with Whit’s family and then meet up with my family in Canada. Those Christmases in Canada were even more multicultural as my brother in law’s family added Greek French-Canadian to the mix. That meant lots of people, food (tons!), and languages (English, Spanish, Greek, and French!) all under the same roof! Once we had kids, however, it’s become a little bit more complex. Not only is traveling with two kiddos a hassle, but now lodging is also more difficult as our families have grown in numbers. My parents usually come here or to my sister’s, and we try to rotate hosting as much as possible. Since we all have to make extended trips to see each other, and it’s also how we were raised, we all go in for costs of groceries, gas, and so on to share the load with whoever is hosting!

This year we did a quick trip to Whit’s hometown (few hours from us), yet stayed home for actual Christmas. My sister couldn’t make it down this year (they came last Christmas), but my parents were able to fly in from Honduras (late, but they made it! - see "Monday Blues"); Whit’s mom and stepdad also came for several days over the Christmas weekend. Talk about a full house!

Since we are all still in different countries for the near future, we’re still figuring out the magic formula for travel and lodging for next Christmas and on. Maybe that means that we have to do hotels or rentals in the future, or even do destination Christmases as the kiddos get older! We’ll see!

2. Christmas Eve vs Christmas Day

While both cultures celebrate Christmas, the actual date of Christmas is not the same! I grew up celebrating Christmas on December 24th, and Whit on December 25th. Since neither of us wanted to give up our own date, our kiddos have a two-day Christmas! On Christmas Eve, we did a version of what I grew up with - had a family dinner, we opened presents, and also read the Jesus’ birth story from the Bible. Then Christmas Day morning, we did more of what Whit grew up with - we opened the stockings (full of good chocolate and other little items), finished opening the rest of the presents, and then had a yummy breakfast together. Neither of these days were exactly what we grew up with, but at least they resembled some of our treasured traditions that we can now share with our kiddos!

3. Food

Anytime my parents visit, but especially at Christmas, our house is full of Honduran food (and coffee!). My parents always bring us lots of goodies from back home, so me and the kiddos are constantly eating Honduran food! As far as Christmas meals go, however, we try to balance Honduran American so we can all enjoy it!

4. Languages

While I speak Spanish to my kiddos pretty much all day long, Christmas has even more Spanish than normal. My parents know some English and continue to learn it, but I have asked them to please speak to the kiddos in Spanish to help them develop their vocabulary even more. Having them visit has also helped Whit learn more Spanish through the years, which I just love! They also get to practice their English with Whit, so it’s a win-win.

5. Santa Claus

Another thing that may be cultural and/or my personal preference, is Santa Claus. I didn't grew up with Santa or any other fairytale things, so I have a really hard time faking it for my kiddos. I really want to teach our kiddos about the true meaning of Christmas and how everything else, including Santa, is just part of the celebration but not the main event. Of course we’re dreading the day that they’ll break some kiddo’s bubble about Santa though!

Improvements for Upcoming Christmases

Those are some of the things we have blended so far for our family, but, as you can imagine, we’re still figuring a few things out. Here are a few other things I would like to work on for next year:

1. Planning and Communication

Many of the things that didn’t go as I had hoped or that caused me frustration, we probably could have avoided or improved if we had taken the time to talk and plan. I’m sure some of it is from the cultural differences/expectations and not knowing what everyone else was thinking!

For example, Christmas Eve dinner wasn’t really smooth; the rolls were not in the oven in time (and we actually didn’t even have enough!), we started our dishwasher too late so we had to hand wash dishes at the last minute, and a few other things. While there were a few of us preparing the overall meal, we didn’t sit down to plan the whole thing together.

There were several other instances where we didn’t have a concrete plan and maybe everyone just thought someone else was taking care of it. So for next Christmas, whatever it looks like, I want to make sure we plan the details ahead of time, and, most importantly, we communicate a little bit better!

2. More Family Traditions

Whit and I are very low key at holidays. Now that our kiddos are getting older and are more aware of it all, I want to start creating more traditions for Whit, the kiddos, and I. Sometimes it’s hard to make time for just the four of us when family comes to town or when we travel, but I really want us to find ways that we can start some traditions that we do every year. Maybe it’s going out for a special meal or baking treats together; whatever it is, I want to create more memories with just us and the kiddos!

3. Less Toys for the Kiddos

After the kiddos’ finished opening all of their gifts and I was organizing their stuff, it really hit me just how much junk they have accumulated. Adi is too young to care, but Coen is always after the next new toy and that feeling is insatiable and unsustainable. Maybe we do a trip or attend more events as a family, or even bigger but less items. Whatever it is, I hope we can find something that still makes the kiddos happy yet teaches them about gratitude!

4. Cultivate Generosity

Something we started this year, and I want us to get better at, is being more generous. While we don’t have it all, especially since giving up my paycheck (see "From Work to Home"), sometimes I forget how blessed we are. It’s easier to focus on all the things we want and can’t have, instead of focusing on all the ways we can help and bless others that may have it tougher than us. This Christmas we participated in a program at Coen’s school where we gave a family a gift for their son (you may have seen it on my Insta story). It wasn’t something huge, but it was a start!

Whatever we choose to do next year, I want to make it more of an emphasis so our kiddos grow up with a sense of generosity in their heart, and not just thinking about themselves.

5. True Meaning of Christmas

The last, but actually the most important one, I want us to make sure we teach our kiddos more about the true reason for Christmas. If you were to ask Coen why we celebrated Christmas, I’m sure he would say "Jesus’ birthday", but he doesn’t quite get it. Sure, we read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, but if I was completely honest, we didn’t do enough to actually "celebrate his birthday". The older the kiddos get, the more we can do as they can understand it better, but I still don’t want to postpone it and miss opportunities until whenever that time comes!

As you can see, we’re still figuring out what works for our multicultural family! What are some of your family Christmas traditions? Were there any "flops" this Christmas that you wish to improve for next year’s?

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