The world has truly come to our doorstep. Whether we live in North America, Europe, Australia, or any other country, we likely eat Italian pizzas, Indian curries and Japanese sushi. We shop at late-night corner stores run by hard-working, Middle-Eastern families. And, many of us work for or interact daily with businesses created by highly talented people who come from all corners of the globe.
For many new arrivals to our communities, the adjustments are not easy–especially around the Christmas season. Language, homesickness, climate changes, financial difficulties, and legal paperwork can all make the holidays especially stressful for those trying to make themselves at home in a new country. Rev. Mike Anderson, a pastor of a church in St. Paul, Minnesota, helps refugees find new homes, jobs and schools. He said,
“I think they find it [Christmas] a bit overwhelming…
They’re just trying to survive and figure out, ‘What is going on here?'” (1)
Do you have neighbours or coworkers who you know are far from their home country? Are there international students attending a nearby university who cannot afford to return home for the school break? Is there a gas station attendant with a thick accent to whom you regularly say hello? Perhaps God would prompt you to connect with these folks in a meaningful way over the holidays.
Here are a couple of ideas of how you can reach out during Christmas this year:
- Pass them What are Christmas and Easter All About? along with a Christmas card wishing them “A very Merry Christmas!”
- Invite them to a casual Christmas coffee and tea get-together. Share home-baked Christmas cookies, ask them about their family and cultural traditions surrounding this time of year. Give them a gift of sweets to take home with the booklet, What are Christmas and Easter All About?
- Invite an immigrant family or friends to join your family for Christmas morning. One family I know invited three Muslim international students for Christmas Day. They were told that they would celebrate the day as they would normally do each year. Before opening presents, the Christmas story was read aloud from the Bible as the children picked nativity characters out of a box and set them up on the coffee table. A copy of The Lamb is the perfect gift for families with young children or for those who are learning English for the first time. It’s also available in several languages.
- Regardless of their age, country of origin, or religious tradition, many newcomers to our communities are eager for real relationships and want to learn more about their new culture–especially at Christmas. If you invite them, perhaps they would jump at the opportunity to share a special holiday get-together with you and your loved ones. What better way to show a little “peace on earth” right on your own doorstep?
Do you have any stories or ideas for sharing a cross-cultural Christmas right at home? Do share in the comments below.
(1) French, Rose. “Immigrants blend Christmas traditions from home and America.” Dec 25, 2011. Minneapolis/St.Paul Star Tribune. (Accessed on Dec 10, 2012.)