Adoptive families come in all shapes and sizes, religious, racial and cultural combinations. Each family composition offers opportunities to celebrate the holidays in many ways.
Your family may have its own rules, expectations and observances. Just because the majority of American families celebrate Christmas doesn’t mean you have to abandon your family's tradition and celebrations.
However, with Christmas trees, decorations, songs and activities so omnipresent, it is difficult for some children to understand why they are not part of the celebration. Some parents cave in and have a “Chanukah bush” decorated with Stars of David or a “Kwanza bush” decorated with food items. There are many other ways to handle this.
If you feel you want to provide a Christmas-like experience for your child:
- Celebrate the holiday at a local food pantry or family shelter. You can volunteer your time, donate goods or homemade items. Your child can bring unused toys or clothes they have outgrown. Not only will your child experience the holiday, but they will learn to “give back” in the process.
- Allow your child to visit with Santa. You can explain you do not believe Santa brings the toys, but other people do. (This can lead to discussions of acceptance and tolerance as your child grows and matures.)
- Create or elaborate on your family’s traditions and rituals to counterbalance the Christmas push. Include your child, as appropriate, in planning and execution of events.
- Visit local shops and malls to view Christmas trees (and decorations). Explain that Christmas is like going to a friend’s birthday party. You can go and have a great time, but it is his birthday, not yours. Christmas is the same—you can enjoy looking at the trees, singing the songs, be happy for your friends, but know it is their holiday, not yours.
- If you are okay with this, allow your child to display twinkle lights in their room (they are pretty and magical) and explain that they are not a religious symbol.
- Plan a Christmas time celebration with friends. Invite them to your home to celebrate your holiday with you. Exposing others to your celebrations and traditions, with your child providing explanations as they grow, is a great way to involve them and to assimilate family traditions.
As your child grows, they are exposed to heritage, culture and religion which are expressed through your rituals, observances and traditions. Your shared experiences bond you as a family unit.
Adoption adds a complexity and an opportunity to expand your family’s celebrations, especially when your adopted child is of a different ethnic group. This does not mean you abandon your traditions. It means you have an opportunity to embrace a new aspect brought by your child. It is a great teaching moment of acceptance and creativity. Allowing your child to help create new traditions, to add a book reading, pick a cultural food to add to the menu, decorate the home in a special way or tell a story will go a long way to not only build unity, increase acceptance and educate those around you—but to make your child feel truly special.