Being part of a multicultural family is interesting, especially around the holidays. My wife is Turkish and celebrates the standard Islamic holidays, like the Eids. I’m American, but have spent so much time abroad that I have become quite distanced from holiday traditions here and they often no longer carry the same meaning for me. It often gets me thinking, what are traditions and why are they important?
One of my favorite little exposés on tradition is from when Tevye breaks into song in Fiddler on the Roof. For Tevye, traditions are about helping people find their place in society and knowing what’s expected of them. For me, I think it’s about relationships. Traditions define our relationships with our family, society, the land, and God. Traditions and rituals are all designed to maintain those relationships.
Multicultural families often want to think about the traditions that tie back to their heritage, family back home, or religion. It’s a way to maintain those relationships with the people and the culture. Traditions bring people together, even when we’re far apart. We will definitely have our daughter celebrate the most important Turkish holidays, supported by visits to Turkey or chats over Skype. It also creates something special in our relationship, something our family does that most other families here don’t. It can also help us foster connections with other Muslims in the area that we can celebrate with, a great opportunity for my daughter to understand more about global citizenship.
Traditions aren’t just the ones defined by the wider culture. Each family also creates its own traditions. Maybe it’s going to see the Christmas lights every Christmas Eve, or getting up early in spring to watch the great herons arrive onto the lakes as part of their northern migration. One of my favorite memories as a young child was going to the arcade every Sunday with my father. Even little traditions help us remember our roots and our relationships with others.
My daughter is just coming to the age where she starts to remember events more strongly and is just beginning to be able to learn the words surrounding traditions, if not discuss their meaning quite yet. This year we celebrated Halloween as a family by having everyone dress up as pirates, which was a blast! We haven’t made any final decisions as to what traditions we’ll keep and what will go. But I know we will choose the ones that help make my daughter feel special and part of something bigger in our families and our cultures. I really look forward to creating traditions just about our family.
How have you found your family mixing traditions. Do you have any private traditions that makes your little ones feel special?
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