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December 13, 2011
Dear Multilingual Living Friends, It is cold here in Seattle! No snow (yet) but a lot of frost nipping at our noses day and night. What a great excuse it has been for us to snuggle at home together reading books! Judging by your list of favorite hot drinks to sip on a cold winter’s day, I’d say that you know how to appreciate the cold as well. What a great list! These past few weeks seem to have gone by in a blur. I don’t feel like I have gotten much of anything done for this holiday season. I haven’t made any holiday cookies or candy (taffy and caramels are always high on our list). I haven’t finished putting together boxes of gifts to send to family members. I haven’t even figured out what Santa/Weihnachtsmann is going to bring my kids this year. I guess I’ve been enjoying the snuggling on the sofa with the family more than I realized!
For many bicultural families, this time of year is one of combination and compromise: try as we might, traditions don’t always mesh together as well as we would hope. Simple things that never seemed to be a big deal all of a sudden are the hot topic of conversation: “What? We can’t change how we celebrate that!”
My family has experienced its own set of bumps and bruises in this area. There were only a few things that I felt very strongly about during the holidays, as you can read in my post How Santa Became Bilingual & Why Nikolaus Rules (Even Though He’s Monolingual), but my mother and my husband felt differently. Each felt very strongly about a number of things and they each made this known loud and clear.
For quite a few years, our house during the holidays was a bit of a battleground (and that was even before any of our children had arrived!). My thought was this: since my husband was forced to spend the holidays so far away from home, he should have first dibs on how things were to be celebrated. Yet how could we expect my mother to change her ways after a lifetime of celebrating traditions exactly how she felt most comfortable? It was a stalemate of global proportions!
I’m sure many of you can relate to this experience and have many a story to tell. I am happy to say that we did find a compromise in my home before my mother passed away from cancer. We somehow figured it all out and learned to thrive again (with a minimum of teeth gnashing and only rare moments of silent frustration).
Traditions run deep in our blood. They take us back to our childhoods and link us with family present and past. Traditions give us a sense of place in our meandering world and they provide us with a sense of stability. When we are asked (or expected) to change our traditions to something completely new, we lose that sense of stability that we have so long depend upon.
The best we can hope for is a smooth transition toward molding something that, although it is new, still retains a flavor of our past experiences. Working together with our spouse and in-laws can be a beautiful transition toward creating something truly unique and our own. When we take care to intermingle traditions slowly and patiently, what comes out in the end is nothing short of magical.
May your hearts this holiday season be filled with the never ending magic and joy of your family’s own traditions!
We have created four different ways to give away four copies of the fantastic book, A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism, by Colin Baker and published by Multilingual Matters. Find out more at the following post before the giveaway closes:
In my family’s holiday household, Nikolaus is pretty darn fantastic. Being monolingual hasn’t hurt his image at all. Santa and the Weihnachtsmann, on the other hand, are completely bilingual and have some clear alter-ego issues to deal with. Find out more in:
My husband and I aren’t complete sticklers when it comes to our children watching age and content appropriate videos and films. Yet we make sure to check out what they are watching and take full responsibility for what goes into their growing minds. It is for this reason that our kids won’t be watching much Disney TV in the near future. Why? Find out here:
As parents of bilingual children, we are keenly aware of exposing our children to a variety of cultural experiences. We want our children to feel comfortable and accepted while also appreciating the diversity that our world has to offer.
However, could we be sabotaging our children’s cultural understanding by the things that we say around them? Not sure how this can happen? Then read the following post about my linguistic faux pas. It’s easier than you might think:
Want to read articles from the top experts in the field of bilingualism while supporting Multilingual Living? Then get your hands on the back issues of Multilingual Living Magazine! You will find more than answers in these amazing issues!
Here are just a few of the experts wrote for Multilingual Living Magazine: Colin Baker, François Grosjean, Jean-Marc Dewaele, Fred Genesee, Madalena Cruz-Ferreira, Jasone Cenoz, Aneta Pavlenko, Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert, Xiao-lei Wang, Barbara Zurer, Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, and many, many more!