Third culture Christmas

We are a Brazilian husband, a British wife and a Brazilian-British daughter currently living in Brazil.

This year I’m trying to be intentional about choosing meaningful traditions for Advent and Christmas that will point us as a family to Christ. I’ve written more about the reason for this here.

As a third culture family unit (being neither fully Brazilian nor British but a unique blend of both) I want to incorporate elements of Christmas traditions from both countries whilst making sure that these are Christ-centred and culturally relevant.

So firstly, whilst we are in Brazil I’m planning to disregard all cold weather related traditions as we are swiftly approaching the height of summer here and, since there is no evidence that Christ was born in the winter, I see no reason to adopt European weather-dependent cultural traditions.

When we are in the UK then of course that changes things and coming in from the cold to hot drinks and a blazing fire calls to mind the feeling of coming home and the evergreen trees remind us that spring will come and winter will end. Little things in each cultural tradition can very well point us to Christ and our life in the now and not yet, the life of Advent.

So for us, stars are in and snowflakes are out. As are fir trees, mulled wine and Christmas jumpers.

This might sound obvious in a hot country, but the Christmas traditions in Brazil were mainly brought from Europe by Portuguese colonisers and then reinforced by North American cultural influences. So plastic Christmas trees, snowmen, Santa Claus in full furred get up accompanied by reindeer and sledge are all considered perfectly normal Christmas decorations here.

My hope is that we can make space for special family moments where we are able to celebrate together, but to clear out the confusion of commercialism and cultural colonialism.

So far we’ve been sporadically reading my little one’s children’s Bible together with a focus on the stories around the lead up to the first Christmas.

The family devotionals I’ve come across are a bit overwhelming – I don’t think I have the time or head space to do them by myself let alone try to work through them with a small child – so we won’t be doing a structured family devotional for a while.

My plan is to attempt to grow a Jesse Tree this year and see whether that works for our family. The Jesse Tree takes its name from a prophecy made by Isaiah that a branch would grow from the stump of Jesse. Jesus is the branch referred to who comes from Jesse’s family tree. So the Jesse Tree is a practical way of preparing for the coming of Jesus by meeting some of His relatives and seeing how their stories point towards His story.

We didn’t start at the beginning of Advent so our Jesse Tree won’t feature all of the characters from Jesus’ family tree, but hopefully retelling some of their stories will remind us of God’s overarching story of redemption and renewal. The Jesse Tree is grown until Christ comes to the earth as a baby, but as we see how God weaves little stories into His bigger story perhaps we will be able to look forward to Christ’s return in glory in expectant hope.

I came across the Faithward Jesse Tree toolkit on an internet search. The kit is free and comes with a number of printable downloads (including a guidebook, ornament templates in colour or for colouring in, and devotions) which is extremely helpful.

I may just draw the decorations onto card rather than print out the templates to keep our costs down but it is nice to be in a position to pick and choose which characters to talk about rather than feel that we have to cram everything in and if I don’t manage that (on top of everything else) then I’ve failed.

So far the decorations we’ve been making together have been brightly painted paper chains which we’ll hang around the room and colourful cardboard stars to hang at the window.

I’m trying to find interesting local plants to make decorations with and have so far collected a number of pinecones, palm curls and som giant seed pods. I’m not a big homemaker or decorator so taking the time to craft something which is purely for decoration and has no other purpose will hopefully give me space to slow down and enjoy the moments we have to create together as a family.

We’ll see how the Advent and Christmas family celebration plans go but this is what we’re aiming for!

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you celebrate any Christmas traditions from more than one culture? How do you pick and choose what you incorporate into your family traditions?

One thought on “Third culture Christmas

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