Blending Your Adopted Child's Culture into Your Holidays

Blending Your Adopted Child's Culture into Your Holidays

While it comes as a surprise to many newly-adoptive parents, years ago families who pursued international adoption were generally encouraged to create as much distance as possible between their child's birth culture and the adoptive family's culture.

Things have changed dramatically over the past few decades. Building a family through international adoption now often includes the making of life time memories through the enthusiastic adaptation of their own or the incorporation of a new set of holiday season traditions from their child's birth culture. Adoption professionals and families know the holiday season is a wonderful time to show respect and appreciation of the adopted child's heritage.

Many lament the holiday season has become highly commercialized and the intent of the season has largely been lost. However, for adoptive families and their children, the holiday season with music, food, decorations, gifts and gatherings is a wonderful opportunity to bring the spirit of the holidays to a higher level.

Consider creating a new tradition by incorporating something from your child's birth culture into your holiday festivities, such as a particular food, activity or decoration that might be used as part of the celebration in their country of origin. With the Internet or your local library, it will not take much effort to find something simple, enjoyable and festive. Because planning and preparation are keys to any successful and enjoyable holiday season, here are a few ways other adoptive parents have brought their child's birth culture into celebrating the holiday season:


In addition to the traditional Christmas holiday songs, make an effort to listen to holiday songs from your child's culture. For example, together sing Christmas carols in your child's native language. For those countries without Christmas carols, all cultures have songs expressing thanks and gratitude as well as songs for celebration.


For many people, the holiday season is synonymous with family recipes passed down through the generations, traditional fare such as turkey, ham and roast beef, and the standard pumpkin pie. Around the world, food is also an integral part of celebrating the holiday season. For example, Kolach, a ring shaped braided bread from the Ukraine, is traditionally served at Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinners. A bit of exploring will surely provide some tasty new recipes to include on your holiday menu.

Decorations and Gifts

Children and adults of all ages often remark a favorite and memorable part of the holiday season is the beautiful and colorful decorations. Via the Internet or your travels, you either can purchase ornaments from your child's country or with your child you can hand-make ornaments reflective of their country and culture. Furthermore, hand-made ornaments of this type are a sure-fire one-of-a-kind gift to give to the person who has everything and will be remembered for many years to come.

Many people use the yearly holiday card to update family and loved ones on their children and household happenings. Adoptive families can decorate the card or newsletter with relevant cultural designs and share the significance and relevance. Another example is a family who adopted from China might also include the Chinese characters representing Happy New Year.


Music, food, decorations and gifts often cumulate in gatherings with family and friends. An adoptive family can contribute a culturally significant holiday dish or wear clothing reflective of the culture to a larger family gathering. Both ideas are certain to generate enthusiasm and discussion about the child's birth culture.

Frequently adoptive families who have all adopted from the same country and/or agency make it a tradition to come together during the holiday time to celebrate. These provide a wonderful opportunity to also share the games, folklore and holiday traditions of the country.

As you practice both new and old traditions this holiday season make certain to discuss with your child the meaning or history of the traditions. This will insure as your traditions are handed down, a sense of cultural values and appreciation remains. It will also serve to connect the past with the present.

Simple or intricate, secular or sacred, holiday season traditions are a way of doing things. They are a family's personal way of carrying out the celebration of the holiday season. The blending of new with old produces a reflection of the adoptive family, its history and serves as a reminder of your family's value for each member.

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