Winter Wonderland with a bit of Salsa : A Guest Post by Paty Melendez

(As part of the series: A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering)

Patricia: I was born in the Dominican Republic to a Dominican mom and Peruvian dad. I left DR when I was six years old and grew up in many countries around the world, mainly in Latin America but also in Africa and Europe. I guess you can describe me as a ‘Citizen of the world’, ‘Third culture kid’ etc. I speak Spanish and English.

I met Øivind at university in the UK, where we now live. He is Norwegian and grew up in Oslo, speaks English and Norwegian, and can defend himself pretty well in Spanish!

We have a little girl called Mia; she is the apple of our eyes, born in August 2010. I don’t speak Norwegian, but I better get my act together soon otherwise Mia and her dad will have a secret language.
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Winter Wonderland with a bit of Salsa

As we gear up for the festive season I’ve been thinking about the contrast between Ø’s traditions and mine; and about our cultural references surrounding Christmas. How will Mia take in these differences? Mia’s dad is from a Nordic country and I am from an island in the Caribbean, even though I left when I was very young. Most couples take turns on whose family they spend the holidays with; this means adapting to each others’ traditions; but in multicultural couples it is also about adapting to another’s culture.

This year we will spend Christmas in Norway with Ø’s family. It will be Mia’s first Winter Wonderland Christmas experience. Christmas in Norway is very different to Christmas in the Dominican Republic, or in my family’s home.

Ø’s Norwegian Christmas experience = cold and short days, a tranquil environment, a burning fireplace, carol singing, food, presents and a beautiful snow-white outdoor.

My Christmas experience = food, presents, a big family gathering and lots of dancing; and the setting was wherever we found ourselves!

My experience in Norway has always been very nice, though very calm compared to what I am used to. Despite that, it involves a packed schedule: Christmas Eve at my in-laws, Christmas day at Ø’s aunt’s house, and Boxing Day with some close family friends. In between, there are beautiful walks in the forest and by the stunning, frozen Oslo fjord.

At my family home, we celebrate Christmas Eve with a big dinner and the next couple of days are relaxed, meeting other families (if we are in the Dominican Republic) and friends, informally. In the background there is always music.

What traditions will Mia absorb? I realize that of course I cannot choose what things Mia will enjoy the most; we can only expose her to the things that make us happy in the holiday season. Having the Christmas tree up on December 1st marks the start of the festive season for me. For Ø the tree goes up a couple of days before Christmas. I could go down a list of all the things that we grew up with, from celebrating advent, the spiritual meaning of Christmas, Santa or no Santa, to the Three Kings day.

The truth is that I would love for Mia to just take in the best of both worlds – enjoy the traditional picture perfect white Norwegian Christmas with the warmth, and lively togetherness of my family celebrations. White Christmas with a bit of salsa!

Being far away from our families means that during the festive season we travel back to see them, but I guess that as time goes by there comes a point when we will start to create our own traditions in the place we call home, even if this place keeps changing!

How do you combine your family celebrations? And how do you do it if you and your partner grew up celebrating different holidays?

Best wishes wherever you all are during this festive season and Happy New Year!!

Father Who? Oh! You Mean Papa Noel.

I used to get two presents from my parents on the 25th of December, one for Christmas, and one for my birthday. I don’t remember if I was bothered that my brothers, in fact, that MANY people get presents on MY birthday.

I don’t remember if I ever thought that Santa Claus was real. I don’t remember any transition from believing that he exists, to knowing the truth; if there was one.

I enjoyed the Christmas stories that we read at school, and the American movies that were shown on the local TV (Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation).

I even used to cut one small branch of one of the three pine trees (go figure!) in our garden and decorate it with christmassy balls and shiny streamers.

However, I could neither empathise with reindeer in the snow (December is rainy and HOT in Lusaka), nor with Father Christmas sliding down chimneys to fill over-sized socks hanging at fireplaces. Chimneys? Fireplaces? And the milk and cookies; if they were called biscuits I might have held the stories closer to my heart.

When we were older, we attended Christmas parties hosted by the local Rotary Club that my dad was involved with, where a black African man dressed up in coca-cola red, with a long and curly, white hair wig and beard, posing as the main man.

It was fun to hang out with the other kids, as well as with the gregarious Santa, Ho ho hoeing, amidst Christmas trees, shiny decorations, who handed out presents (that our parents had bought for us). We usually donated our own old toys to the club so that some children in need at hospitals, orphanages, or on the streets, could also feel some of the Christmas spirit.

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Rahul has been saying, “Rhino. Papa Noel,” a few times lately. It’s sweet that he likes rhinos. If he hadn’t let me in on how he planned to get one though, I’d have told him he’ll see real rhino’s when he goes to Zambia, sometime next year.

In an English – speaking setting, Leila hesitated for a few minutes before she burst out, “Leila. Papa No-lel. Blue dinosaur.” That’s when I realised that Leila and Rahul had no idea who Father Christmas, or Santa Claus was. The concept didn’t exist because I’d never brought it up.

Maher overheard what Leila asked for and replied: “Est-ce que c’est Papa Noel, ou c’est papa Maher qui va t’acheter un dinosaur bleu?

I want L and R to enjoy stories about Santa, like most of the kids around them; and I hope they feel the magic of it all. But I won’t go so far as to tell them that he’s sliding down 30 storey buildings, into the living room windows at night, to deliver gifts to them; and only if they are good children. And that he decided that they have to share one big present. Or do they get one each, something smaller maybe? Exactly the same toy, or two different ones?

Does he like chappatis and kheer?

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Any personal Santa stories, books, or movies to share?

Here are a few Santa Posts:

Santa Claus: The Magic of Christmas Or A Big, Fat, Bearded Lie by Jo Eberhardt of The Happy Logophile

Yes, I Torture Them. Gleefully! by Desi of The Valentine 4: Living Each Day

Santa Claus: Kind of an Asshole by Mommy Rotten, Guest Post at Momma Be Thy Name

“If you are happy, be happy. If you are angry, be angry.”

Here’s a piece of a blog-entry: “Gratitude, Shmatitude”, by jmlindy of Snide Reply. She’s a mum, a teacher, and a writer, among other things. The post is a good read, and her blog a good one to bookmark.

Check it out here: http://jlwrite.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/gratitude-schmatitude/
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One Christmas, my mother gave my siblings and me really nice fleece sweaters from Land’s End. Each sweater had a surprise in the pocket…a crisp large denomination bill. I decided to use my mom’s idea for my son. I found a cozy shearling-lined hoodie that I knew he’d like. I put a large denomination gift card in the pocket. I put it under the tree. He loved it. He looked for other presents. There were none. “That’s it?” he asked, “a hoodie?”

“It’s nice hoodie,” I said.

“It’s a hoodie,” he said. “I got a hoodie.”

“Put it on,” I said.

“Mom, it’s a hoodie. It’ll fit.”

“Just put it on. It was expensive. I want to see if it looks good on you.”

“Fine,” he said. I figured he’d put his hands in the pockets, the way everyone does when they try on a hoodie. He stood in front of me, arms limp at his sides, disappointment draining from his pores.

“There,” he said. “It’s on. It’s a hoodie.”

“Look in the freaking pockets,” I said.