Celebrating Traditions in a Foreign Country
Stamford American International School is a diverse, international community with a goal to promote understanding and respect of different cultures. We encourage our students to enjoy and celebrate their home traditions. Which is why we share that it's important to remember them and some holiday ideas.
US third culture kids share holiday ideas
The children of business people, educators, missionaries, military personnel, and diplomats who spend their lives travelling and residing in different nations were dubbed “third culture kids” by the late American anthropologist and sociologist Ruth Hill Useem. This was due to the fact that, while they may have American parents and they may be US citizens, they grow up within another culture and develop connections to different people and places.
Useem went on to investigate the impact this has on children during their developmental years and how adults were eventually affected by these childhood experiences. There is now a fascinating body of work based on her original research, which has been expanded upon by others. Some important insights have been developed, including ideas surrounding the role traditional celebrations play in keeping families living abroad in touch with their roots.
There is no doubt that living overseas can present a few difficulties when it comes to celebrating holidays. At the Stamford American International School Singapore, we are devoted to making our expatriate families feel at home, so we have generated some information on celebrating the holidays abroad.
Why it’s important to remember home traditions
Celebrating home traditions helps you, your partner, and your children stay grounded in your own culture while you are all adapting to living in a new one. Celebrating a traditional holiday can enhance a positive mood for weeks as you all become immersed in preparations for the event and the excitement of the day itself.
Feelings of festivity are also important in a communal sense. Holidays can help you connect with fellow expats in your local area who then often become part of your mutual support group. You can meet like-minded individuals through different channels in the local community such as your place of work, your religious institution, or your children’s educational facility.
If you have children studying at international schools in Singapore, for example, lots of the kids can still enjoy the American holiday celebrations you previously enjoyed at home, even though they are surrounded by many cultural traditions. Here are a few ways to arrange the special holiday treats your kids love.
If the family favorite during the holidays is a turkey dinner, it’s possible to pre-order a bird from local butchers, supermarkets, or restaurants — a quick online search will help you find your nearest outlets in Singapore, and you can choose from traditional roast turkey or a number of Asian fusion versions. You can also opt for classic roast beef or honey-glazed ham, depending on what you and your kids are partial to.
Rumour has it that Windowsill Pies on Haji Lane makes a mean pumpkin and pecan pie that is not to be missed, although it’s equally pleasurable to make your own if you enjoy being in the kitchen. Besides pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving dinner, the honorable tradition of making scarecrows during the autumnal period is just as enjoyable in Singapore as it is back in the US. Luckily, this is not a difficult task as it mostly involves gathering bits, pieces, and general scraps together before assembly. While the climate might be a little different, make the kids feel at home by building a Singaporean scarecrow that is as stunning as it is scary.
In Singapore, especially Orchard Road will come alive at Christmas with carols, food, shopping and of course the amazing decorations! Shopping malls and local theaters will have Christmas-themed productions – fun to take the children and visiting family! Tanglin Mall of course is famous for its ‘snow’ showcase (come with a change of clothes for the little ones!)- take advantage of these sights and make sure your kids appreciate that people from other cultures are joining in the celebrations.
Your kids may insist that you put up a Christmas tree. You can usually source an artificial one via IKEA, the Swedish retail outlet, on Alexandra Road or from Vanda Win at KINEX Mall (formerly known as OneKM Shopping Mall). Several local nurseries and Cold Storage will also be offering fresh trees (the smell of pine!). Encourage the children to decorate or trim the tree as they would in their home country to make them feel at home while helping you set up the festive display.
Memories that last
The adage “when in Rome” has a place in the grand scheme of living abroad. However, it needn’t necessarily dominate. Remember that observing your home traditions while living overseas will give you and your children some unique experiences that you will remember for a long time to come. So, next time you see one of your traditional holidays approaching on the calendar, start planning. Invite your friends, involve the kids, and create your own lasting memories.