The Festive Challenges Facing Third Culture Kids

third culture kids

Given the melting pot of Dubai and the UAE, it is no surprise that this destination is home to a vast number of third-culture kids or individuals.  For these people the festive period can be especially challenging.  Faced with a mix of emotions, customs and traditions, it can be especially difficult to navigate celebrating with family and friends.  There are often obstacles to maintaining the heritage of festive traditions, particularly when your family might have more than one set to honour.  So how portable are our cultural festive traditions?  Can you bring to life the customs of the past in a modern environment?  How much balance do you need to have between the old and the new?

TCKs and TCIs      

If you aren’t that familiar with the terminology (although if you live Dubai you probably are) third-culture kids or individuals “are people who were raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality, and also live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years”.  The ‘third culture’ term, originally coined in the 1950s, refers to the blended cultures they experience. The reality of this evolution is that these people might struggle to pinpoint unique cultural pedigrees that apply to them. They could have parents from different cultures that now live in a new culture, creating a huge mix of potential avenues for celebrations.  As well as the ‘absence of heritage’ issues that third-culture kids experience, the holidays can be particularly difficult.  When a person feels a lack of connection to a specific cultural environment, it can be hard for them to identify with that group or society.  The multi-cultural setting of the UAE is intentionally broad and there are endless possibilities to choose from.  This can further compound the feeling of uncertain connections and choices.  Third culture kids are often the first in their family to experience this reality, which makes it hard for their elders to understand their lack of integration with long-held customs.  While it is vital for third-culture kids to be exposed to the stories of their past and to understand the elements that shaped their family and who they are, it is also important to grasp that a new approach might be key in preventing unresolved issues in the future.  Families with third-culture kids must focus on how best to celebrate the holiday season in their new environment and how that might affect their children’s understanding of their traditions. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with a ‘the more the merrier’ attitude – it’s a guaranteed joy spreader!

A Different Approach

For many people who grew up with long-held traditions associated with the festive period, it can be easy to assume that everyone celebrates in the same, or at least a similar, way.  But third culture kids will be the first to tell you that isn’t the case.  For those who travel or live abroad, one of the most exciting elements can be discovering those type of cultural nuances and giving new customs and habits a try.  When it comes to the occasion of Christmas and the associate festive celebrations, there are huge difference between cultures across the world.  We’ve put together a list of some of our favourites, many of which might surprise you:

Sweden: One of the oldest Christmas traditions dates back to the 11th Century and regards the Yule Goat which was said to have been led by Saint Nicholas.  In Sweden, men in the family used to dress up as the goat instead of Santa to distribute presents.

Norway: In Norwegian folklore Christmas Eve is when the witches and mischievous spirits come out to play.  Traditionally families will hide away their brooms to ensure the witches can’t find them on this night.

South Africa: Can’t wait for turkey this Christmas?  Well in South Africa you might also find some festive fried caterpillars on the table.  Yummy, yummy.

The Netherlands: Got your stocking ready? Did you know that Dutch children leave out their shoes in the hope they will get filled with small gifts and treats on Christmas Day.

Venezuela: In Caracas, the capital city, it has become tradition for the congregation to roller skate to church on Christmas morning, they even official close the streets for it.

Ukraine: Love spiders? If the answer is no, you might want to avoid Ukraine over the festive period.  Following a folklore about a poor widow unable to decorate her tree who was rescued by a friendly spider who adorned the greenery with webbing, Ukrainians will traditionally decorate their tree with spider webs

Japan: Christmas isn’t actually a national holiday in Japan, but thanks to a savvy marketing campaign in 1974, many families will rush to their local KFC for a special Christmas Eve meal.  Its become such a phenomenon that meals now come with a premium and you can expect to part with around 3,336 yen for your Christmas dinner.

However you are celebrating this festive season, the whole TELLAL team hopes you have a wonderful time with family and friends.  And remember, this is a great time to try something new……

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