Christmas Traditions in a Multi-cultural World
Every family has their own Christmas traditions. We may always choose a particular type of tree, decorated with ornaments that have been passed down the generations, along with those the kids made decades ago, an ever-changing combination each year.
Christmas eve has always been so magical for the children, who quickly discover they can stay up late if they are well behaved and let the grownups talk. Finally going off to bed, having left cookies and milk for Santa, falling asleep as they listen for the sound of reindeer hoofs on the roof.
There are the years when grown children continue to come home to their parents for Christmas. Then, when the grandchildren begin to arrive grandparents may be doing the travelling so that their children can celebrate the holidays in their own home, in their own way, developing their own traditions. Then as the old folks truly become old folks it is the turn of the younger ones to come to their parents again, so that their old Mom and Dad can be comfortable in their own home.
We bake Christmas cakes from our grandmother’s recipes, and gingerbread men from Fanny Farmer’s Boston School of Cooking (even though some of us might now use Martha Stewart’s recipe, it really is better). We bake Russian teacakes and ginger crinkles and other family favourites.
The Christmas dinners of our childhood may have featured a goose or a turkey – homemade cranberry sauce of course, mounds of mashed potatoes, and the dreaded Brussels sprouts.
Christmas morning the kids are up early – in the dark – looking with wonder at the presents under the tree. They are allowed to have their stockings before waking the grownups.
That was the world in which I grew up. But, for many of us, some of our long held traditions are changing. The multi-cultural world in which we now live has brought changes to our holiday traditions. There are new traditions being created within all of our families, as we blend cultures and find our own traditions evolving into a lovely mix of old and new in every way. In our home we mix the holiday traditions of Christmas and Chanukah. It is perfectly fine to have Latkes and Turkey – delicious in fact.
This year our traditions are changing again with a new family member bringing his Danish traditions into the mix. There will be real candles on the tree, the holders brought to Canada by great-grandparents. Christmas eve will see a large extended family gathering for dinner and the exchange of gifts. After a late night, maybe the kids will even sleep in on Christmas morning – we can only hope.
Dinner will be an eclectic potluck with dishes contributed by both sets of grandparents and the young couple hosting the dinner. Roast pork and duck, vegetable dishes and condiments. For dessert my grandmothers fruit cake, Chanukah rugelach, and Danish Klejner.
Many of you will have an even more interesting blend of cultures, adding to the richness and excitement of the holiday season as we all celebrate with our families in our own unique way.
In a world so overwhelmed with war and hatred between people of different faith, let us all embrace the traditions of others and hope for peace this Christmas.