The holidays are a great time to remember loved ones and treasured family traditions. My ethnic background and family culture make up a big part of who I am today. My maternal grandparents both immigrated to the US from Italy after World War II in search of the “American Dream”. They came from extremely poor families and wanted better for their children and future generations.
Holidays are extremely important to my grandparents, and they would tell us stories about celebrating Christmas in Italy and barely having enough to scrape by. My family continues to practice some authentic Italian Christmas traditions. One of the biggest cultural practices is not eating any meat on Christmas Eve. We have a meal consisting of pasta and different fish. This is an old tradition dating back to ancient times, and there isn’t really one specific reason for it. Some say it is out of respect for the manger animals in the Christian story of Jesus’s birth, while others say it is more practical and because of the abundance of fish in Italy’s coastal regions.
Showcasing other cultures and cultural practices is important, especially in the work that we do on a daily basis. The more we understand and know about different cultures, the stronger we can make our relationships and bridge the gaps between people of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds.
This year, SaintA incorporated an Appreciation Tree for Child Welfare and other staff. The idea was simple; for each team to decorate and personalize ornaments to hang on the tree, which is displayed in the lobby of the agency. When my team, headed by supervisor Melinda Deibert, was given the task of decorating ornaments, we wanted to do something that would differentiate us from other teams. The idea came to me to feature ornaments decorated with different Christmas and holiday traditions from other cultures around the world. This way, we would be able to not only craft some unique ornaments, but would also be able to showcase some interesting cultural traditions from around the world.
Some traditions showcased in the team’s ornaments include
- Croatia: Children in Croatia leave their boots out for St. Nick to give them presents. If the children have been bad, Krampus will give them golden twigs instead of presents to remind them to behave. (Sretan Božić)
- France: Bells in cathedrals ring for longer periods of time in France during the Christmas season. (Joyeux Noël)
- Germany: Advent calendars with candles are popular in Germany, with an ‘Advent Kranz’ being a ring of fir branches that has four candles on it. (Frohe Weihnachten)
- Greece: In Greece, it is popular to go caroling and children will carry with them model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. (Kala Christougenna)
- Hawaii: Leis are worn in celebration of Christmas in Hawaii. (Mele Kalikimaka)
- Mexico: Poinsettias used in celebrations in Mexico. (Feliz Navidad)
- Naples: Naples in Italy is famous of making cribs used in Nativity scenes and families will put cribs in their homes in preparation for the baby Jesus. Some regions decorate their Nativity scenes with golden pinecones and other gold items. (Buon Natale)
- Sweden: Sweden celebrates St. Lucia’s day in December by selecting a girl to be St. Lucia and representing her by dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. (God Jul)
I’m proud of my cultural heritage and am proud to have connections to my cultural roots. My culture, and especially my grandparents, have taught me the value of family and how much hard work pays off. When things get difficult for me, I remember the sacrifices and struggles my grandparents faced when they came to the US and how they were able to persevere and get through it. This keeps me going when I am faced with difficult situations.
This year, I wish you a season filled with appreciation for your family and its own traditions and I hope Team Deibert’s celebration of culture inspires you to think about how diverse – and beautiful – the world can be.
If you have a favorite ornament shown above, tell us in the comments. Or, feel free to tell us about any cultural celebrations we may have missed.
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