Christmas In Canada: Introducing My Chinese Husband To My Family’s Tradition

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When I had first met my husband, I knew that sharing our cultural traditions would be memorable. We came from opposite sides of the world; him having grown up in China, while I only knew of life in Canada.

He celebrated Chinese New Year, I celebrated Christmas, but we didn’t celebrate each other’s holidays. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about Chinese New Year, and he barely knew about Christmas, despite having lived in Canada for more than a decade when I had met him.

Let’s just say, the holiday season was bound to get interesting, as I introduced my husband to Christmas done my way, which, surprisingly, he has embraced warmly since.

Let’s start with the holiday lunch, complete with all the fixings; pasta, turkey, potatoes, and more, often leaving us in a ‘food coma’ afterwards.

During our first celebration, my husband was puzzled as to why the food was brought out separately, as opposed to all at once. I then explained how we needed time to enjoy each course, before indulging on another. He now understands not to gorge completely on the first dish, thinking that it would be the only item served.

He did, and still does, love the variety of food, often lavishing over the unique ways each of the items are prepared. Although his palate dislikes desserts, which are often pouring in goodness after the main meal has been consumed, he does TRY them. Alas, I do have to give him credit for trying!

Next, my husband was confused as to the décor during the holiday season. When I had first put stockings on the fireplace mantel, he questioned the use of them; why are there large socks filled with gifts? I then explained the significance, along with the tree, which was lit-up to the ceiling.

As I embraced in choosing colourful ornaments for our tree, he often asked why it was so important to have a tree in one’s home. Something which was second-nature to me, was difficult for him to truly grasp. I am proud of his efforts though, as he now embraces decorating the home, while choosing some of the decorations himself!

Lastly, the idea of gift-giving, which stumped my husband at first. During Chinese New Year, my husband and I give out 红包 (hóngbāo (Mandarin) or lai see (Cantonese)) to all of his younger, single relatives. However, not to any older, or married ones.

During Christmas though, gift-giving differs, as we provide physical gift items, to all relatives, both young/old, or single/married. We often had difficulty choosing gifts each relative would enjoy, with him often resorting to money. In contrast, I preferred to gift certain items one had asked for. As a result, I am the one who does the gift purchases, while he gladly sits back and enjoys watching.

All in all, I have seen a vast improvement in my husband’s understanding on how my family celebrates Christmas. Although he still questions a few, minor traditions, his acceptance has far surpassed my expectations.

This often leaves me happy with glee, thinking that I get to kiss him, and only him, under the mistletoe this holiday season.

Has your partner embraced your holiday traditions? Or, is it a struggle for him/her to understand why certain traditions take place?

Maria Deng

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