Third Culture Christmas

Third Culture Christmas is a guest post I sent to Tall Blonde Tales for Blogmas! Here it is in all its glory!

I am a Third Culture Kid, which means that before I was 18, I lived in countries other than one of my parents’ nationalities. I have lived in France, Switzerland, the UK, the USA, and now I’m currently in Canada. People ask me what Christmas traditions have I picked up from my life of diverse cultural exposure? Read on to find out!

French Traditions:

I was too young to remember living in France, but my parents still taught me French culture after we moved to the USA. One of my early memories was being confused about how Santa arrived with presents. In France, when Santa brings presents on Christmas Eve, he arrives on a donkey, not a sleigh. As I got older, there are three French foods that we have had at Christmas, depending on availability and quality expected. 

Bûche de Noël or Yule log, is one of our favourites! France is one of those cultures that observes the Feast of the Kings on Twelfth Night. A common dessert is the Galette de Rois. There is no proper English translation for the galette, but you can look it up here: Galette des Rois: A Sweet French Tradition – FAYLI

I sometimes have the galette for my birthday cake because my birthday falls within the twelve days of Christmas! When I moved to Canada, I was ecstatic to find authentic Bûche de Noël and Galette de Rois at a French patisserie! Another food that my family enjoys is foie gras, but availability depends on where you live. The last time I had foie gras at Christmas was when I lived in England! 

English Traditions:

On that note, I have had some memorable food while living in London, England! My family attempted a Christmas pudding a few times. I loved lighting it and watching the alcohol burn off! I found it hard to eat though since it’s soaked in so much booze. One year, my family had a goose for Christmas. It was incredible! Goose fat adds a certain special flavour to food, and it reminded me of French food. I haven’t had a goose since leaving England, but I will never forget how incredible it is!

One story that is always told in England around Christmas is the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. When World War I started in 1914, the soldiers were all told they would be home by Christmas. When that didn’t happen, British, French and German soldiers laid down their weapons and had fun together. This happened all along the Western Front. The saddest part was all the men who engaged in the truce were censured severely and the generals tried to cover it up. I personally think it was a beautiful act of fraternity, peace, love and cultural sensitivity.

I have seen cartoons, advertisements and other things that commemorate the Christmas Truce. One of the movies I see during the Christmas season is Joyeux Noël, which is the story of the Christmas Truce. You can read more about the movie here: Joyeux Noel (2005) – Plot Summary. Even though I don’t live in England anymore, I still have a little remembrance of the Christmas Truce.

The Christmas Pantomime:

I wanted to give an extra special shoutout to an English Christmas tradition: The Christmas Pantomime. If you are ever in the UK in December or January, see if you can go to a Christmas panto! I personally recommend the ones at the small theatres rather than the large ones. The small theatres feel more personal and there is a lot of audience participation in the Christmas panto. I was part of a community theatre and I did two Christmas pantos. I played Dick Whittington’s cat when I was 12, which was the best role I ever had! Makes me feel like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet! 

A bit of history. The panto originated out of the Commedia dell’Arte, which was a popular theatre tradition in Europe for 200 years. It really is worth learning about, and pantos have classic scenes that are right out of the Commedia dell’Arte. For instance, there is the cooking scene and the school scene. Also, the principal boy is played by a woman and the dame is played by a man. 

One thing that my parents and I realized is that colonization of the Americas was happening at the same time as the Commedia dell’Arte. The Puritans, who were against the arts for religious reasons, were among the first settlers in what is now the USA. So, the panto tradition never crossed the Atlantic. My parents and I have had discussions about whether the panto can become an accepted theatre tradition in the USA. We have certainly found distinct cultural differences between American and English humour. I could write an entire post about the panto tradition and this particular historical significance, but I will stop right here.

American Traditions:

I moved to the USA when I was two years old. At the time, my parents didn’t know if we would ever live in another country again. But what my Mum did was collect Christmas stories from wherever we travelled and lived and put them in a binder that we would read every Christmas. We continue to read those stories, even though we have now lived in five countries. The stories include classics like The Gift of the Magi, to more current stories.

A few years after we repatriated to the USA after living in London, we decided to go to Yosemite National Park for Christmas. We arrived there at the Winter Solstice, and there happened to be a full moon then! That doesn’t happen often. Ansel Adams photographed a full moon at Yosemite at the Winter Solstice, right when it was over Half Dome (which is an iconic feature of Yosemite). We had to stay pretty late to see the full moon over Half Dome. I tried to take a photo, but I didn’t do it justice. The park was abuzz with people trying to see what Ansel Adams saw when he took his iconic photos.

photo of snow capped mountain under blue night sky

Photo by Ian Beckley on Pexels.com

Canadian Traditions:

I was in for a couple of Christmas surprises when I moved to Canada. I became a huge fan of Canadian comedy, and their holiday comedy is cathartic when dealing with holiday stress. Our political and new satire show This Hour Has 22 Minutes has some incredible holiday sketches on YouTube. Since Canada has long winters, we have to have something to keep us entertained. Canadian Christmas comedy is a great way to decompress. Here’s one of my favourite videos to laugh at Christmas stress:

Christmas Light displays are hugely popular in Canada as well. I am already getting notifications about light displays at the zoo, and malls! My city has a river walk that you can do to see all these light displays. Additionally, they have a site where they list houses that have light displays that you can walk or drive by to see. Even if it’s not Christmas, I have noticed there is a real love of light, especially in the winter.

person walks outdoor during night

Photo by David Guerrero on Pexels.com

Other Traditions:

I got to know a lot of Russians while I was living in London. I learned that Russian Christmas is generally celebrated on January 6th or 7th, depending on the Orthodox calendar. New Year is more popular in Russia than Christmas though. It used to be on a different date from January 1st, but then it changed to meet more Western standards. So, I have heard things about Old New Year, versus New New Year. Additionally, one Russian saying is that you will spend the New Year the way you meet it (Как Новый год встретишь, так его и проведешь). Yes, I speak Russian, but that’s not the point. Because of that saying, Russians have some cultural practices to help them meet the New Year ready for a fresh start. 

You can find this movie called The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! on YouTube. It’s a Russian New Year comedy made in 1975, and it showcases traditions for Russian New Year. It has English subtitles, so don’t worry about not understanding it. Although to be fair, I started watching it when I was first learning Russian, and I was still able to pick up the story by watching what the actors were doing. Whenever I remember watching the comedy for New Year, I do so. Plus, I still believe that you do spend the New Year the way you meet it, although some things you have to take with a grain of salt.

No matter where I am in the world, nothing makes me happier than a white Christmas! I have always loved snow as a kid and that has never gone away! That’s a Christmas tradition that is universal for me!

Merry Christmas/Joyeux Noël/с Рождеством! Happy New Year/Bonne Année/с Новым Годом!

One Year in Canada!

I moved to Canada one year ago!

To all my followers, I want to say thank you for following my journey! It’s been an absolute pleasure to share my experiences with all of you!

Speaking of sharing my experiences, I am still on a hiatus right now. I am dealing with a family emergency. My mother got appendicitis and things are going to be a hot mess for while. So, if I don’t comment on your posts, you know why. To those of you for who I have said I will do guest posts, I will email you soon.

I am going to do a post in the future about dealing with emergencies when you live in another country. Plus, I have some other posts planned. Yes, this emergency means I am on a hiatus from my Calgary Parks Challenge as well.

I will celebrate my one year in Canada later on, but I am still taking a moment to celebrate! To those of you who know about my mother, thank you for all your support!

More on Divided Loyalties

Hey everyone! After I wrote my post on Enjoying Sports as A TCK, I felt it was important to expand more into the topic of divided loyalties. There are a lot of incorrect ideas floating around, and I wish to set the record straight. There are so many famous quotes about how division is bad, so it’s no surprise that we automatically think that something divided is bad. I’m sharing a quote from Abraham Lincoln. It has merit, but here’s why it shouldn’t be taken at face value.

A Little More About the Olympics and Divided Loyalties:

I have seen athletes compete in the Olympics who are originally from one country and end up on another national team. I respect that there are residency and training requirements for being on a national team. The nicest thing though is that there isn’t a lot of media fervour over whether immigrant athletes are loyal to their new national team. If there is, I just ignore it because it’s just hype. I feel sorry for the athletes that are subjected to that though.

The Tokyo Olympics were unique this year. I saw a lot more athletes who used to live in one country and then moved to another and ended up competing on their national team. I got to admit, some athletes’ backgrounds made me think, “Yep! TCK!” One cool thing too was there was a refugee team. One of my friends said that there might be a TCK team someday, and you know what? I believe it! Honestly, when it comes to sporting events, divided loyalties can be fun! I wish it was more accepted in general, though. Another funny thing I noticed is whenever I saw the sign “Tokyo 2020”, my mind kept thinking, “Did it just say TCK yo?”

On a More Serious Note:

TCKs can be judged harshly by monocultural people because they have divided loyalties. There is a common misconception that having TCKs in the military or government, or even business that they can compromise who they represent. In reality, when TCKs act as representatives of a country, they do an even better job because they know how to practice effective intercultural communication. If they know the cultural norms of a country they have to communicate with, even better. Even if they don’t know the cultural norms, they have ways of finding these things out because they have their own little international network.

Additionally, you become a TCK because of the institution your parents belong to. That can include military, missionary, diplomat, corporate or anything else. I might not have said this before, but I’m an academic brat turned corporate brat. Generally, TCKs are against whatever institution their parents were a part of. If they do follow their parents, it’s not without giving it significant thought. I am very anti-corporate BECAUSE WE GOT SCREWED!! I went to university rather late after giving it significant thought. Nailed it!

The Reality:

When TCKs choose to represent a certain culture, they are committed to doing right by that culture. They have thought through the pros and cons. There are certain institutions that demand complete loyalty, like the military. For me, it’s natural to shy away from institutions that demand complete loyalty. I still respect TCKs who can get their minds around being in an institution that demands complete loyalty.

It’s commonly overlooked that TCKs learned from an early age that they are representatives of whatever country they came from. Some of that representation has been imposed by their parents’ institution, and some of that is simply awareness that when you’re overseas, you’re a representative. Learning how to be a representative on a daily basis doesn’t just go away as you get older.

Whenever I have wanted to apply for a job that has a specific cultural twist, my mother always warned me that I might not get it because I’m multicultural and they might doubt my loyalty. At first, I thought she was creating a prejudice that wasn’t there. As it turned out, she was right. This is yet another reason why I’m starting my own business.

A Real-life Example of TCKs Getting Crap:

Unless you’re in the international scene, you probably don’t know that Barack Obama is a TCK. Yep, look at his bio. Kamala Harris is a TCK too. I remember when Obama was running for President, and even though I didn’t know the term TCK at the time, I said, “Finally! Someone I can relate to!” Then, Donald Trump started the Birther Movement and that was insulting to TCKs around the world. That made me question if I could ever go back to the US again. It’s yet another example of TCKs getting crap for their multicultural experience. I had heard mainstream US media and Americans, in general, were trying to put Obama in boxes which he clearly didn’t fit. You can’t put a TCK in a box.

There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Obama was NOT a security risk! If anything, I found his abilities to relate to leaders from other countries and to connect to people second to none! He’s an incredible role model for all TCKs.

I saw a similar trend in media when Kamala Harris was announced as Biden’s running mate. Of course, since she wasn’t running for president, it was on a lower level. I don’t particularly like Kamala Harris, but I do feel sorry for her on the crap she gets in the media. It’s like, can we move on already? I do think that Obama and Harris are very different people though, but I think I will save my thoughts on that for another post.

I can hear people saying they could never have a TCK in politics. Meryl Streep’s lines are my responses.

If you want to live in a globalized world, those choices are necessary.

And then, I Found a Surprise:

I moved to Canada and found out many Members of Parliament are either multicultural or have dual nationality. Elizabeth May, former leader of the Green Party used to have US citizenship. Additionally, Andrew Scheer, former leader of the Conservative Party has dual Canadian and US citizenship. So, if he had become Prime Minister *GASPS!! We would have had a PM who had dual nationality!

I bet Canadians were looking at the Birther Movement and laughing because if we did that, we would never report on any news because of so many MPs to cover! When the US was like, “Obama wasn’t born in the US! ARGH!!” and I bet Canadians were like, “We don’t give a flying fuck!” Am I right, my fellow Canuks? To be clear, I don’t know if this was true, but I had to inject a little humour here.

Divided Loyalties are More Common than You Think:

I have met people who have fought during WWII and I love their stories. Here’s my one wish though. I wish that I had met a WWII veteran who was German-American or Japanese-American. American soldiers of German or Japanese heritage had divided loyalties too. The Japanese-American unit became the most decorated unit in the American military. However, the soldiers didn’t normally share with their loved ones that they were decorated. Back then, you didn’t talk about how you felt torn with divided loyalties. You just zipped your lip and did your duty.

Sometimes, divided loyalties can be very painful for TCKs and we don’t like to talk about it either. It’s amazing to meet others who can relate to divided loyalties. I feel the bottom line is no one can tell you how much to love a country and what parts to love. You have to figure it out for yourself, and most importantly, not judge others for not loving the same things you love. There are so many diverse and kinetic elements of culture that you can find what you like. Heck, I know monocultural people who never leave a country to like different things about their country and they get along just fine! Why should it be different for multicultural people?

What do you think about what I said? Let me know in the comments! Until next time.