It’s high holiday time with the US Thanksgiving just wrapping up and even in my little corner of the world, Christmas is jingling into the grocery store speakers. I live on the subtropical island of Taiwan, so I’m always amazed to hear “Stille Nacht” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as I wind in and out of aisles with my cart full of items written in characters.
My husband is what most would label a third culture kid. His German parents lived there for a number of years. It is where he grew up. I’m a monoculture kid. I grew up in a small town in the middle of the United States. Our children? Well, they are TCKs, but they are also cross-cultural kids. Ruth E. Van Reken defines a CCK in her book, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, as “a person who has lived in – or meaningfully interacted with – two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years.”
What does this mean? Well, in our family we have a mixture of German and US cultures living in the same household. Plus, we also encounter the Taiwanese culture where we live. In other families this may play out as refugee children or immigrant children who are growing up in a different culture than their parents’ “home” country. I believe that as parents we need to share our culture with our children, so they know and understand where their family comes from. I can’t speak for other immigrants or for those under refugee status, but I can speak from our experience – two cultures living in the same home.
How can you share both cultures?
When my husband and I were first married, we decided that we needed to make our own traditions. Of course, this is what any newly married couple does. Christmas is one of those holidays that we both celebrated, but our families celebrated very differently.
Germans begin Christmas celebrations on December 6th, St. Nikolaus Tag. The night before children clean their shoes and put them by the door in hopes that St. Nikolaus will come and leave them some treats the next morning. My husband’s family also celebrated on Christmas Eve where they would traditionally decorate the Christmas tree and place the presents underneath. After attending the Christmas Eve service, they would eat Bratwurst, various salads, and cookies. The children opened presents only after the family sang a few songs and read the Christmas story.
Due to German heritage, some in the US might follow these traditions. My family was not one of them. The Christmas tree went up the day after Thanksgiving. Santa Claus comes on Christmas Eve only and leaves presents for kids to open on Christmas Day. Some years we went to a Christmas Eve service, but usually, our church had their program the week before the holidays.
So, what did we do?
We meshed our traditions together. The kids clean their shoes on the night of December 5th to receive some goodies on the morning of the 6th. On Christmas Eve we might go to a Christmas Eve service, if there are any. We do eat Bratwurst with various salads and dessert is Christmas cookies. We read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and open all the presents from my husband’s side of the family. On Christmas morning we open the presents from my side of the family. As for presents from each other, it changes from year to year depending on what the kids want to do.
I think sharing your culture with your child is very important and the holidays can be an easy way to do that. We have found that as we share our culture, we share stories of our past. Since our families live so far away and we are not able to visit them every year, we have found that these stories have brought our children closer to their extended relatives.
How has your family created traditions to include your family’s culture?