Sharing the holidays with your au pair…part 1

Thanksgiving, Saint Nicolas day, Diwali, Hannukah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, Shinnenkai… there are so many holiday traditions across different religions and cultures!

Coming from a large French family, I enjoy everything about sharing a holiday: time off, great food, family gatherings, visiting friends, gift exchanges or new year’s wishes. Beyong the traditions that come with your country of origin and religion, there are traditions that you have developed as a family.


Friends: Monica inside turkey "speaking" to Chandler...

Sharing those traditions with your au pair is a wonderful gift for a young person seeking to discover the American culture. Especially Thanksgiving, as we see Americans celebrating around a big turkey in all the movies and TV shows like “Friends” (right), but obviously it is not celebrated anywhere else (“No, we didn’t have pilgrims in France”)…

Let your extended family know that your au pair is part of your family for a year, and beyond a childcare provider, she or he is also a friend. Make sure to include her in the festivities, and also give her/ him the option to spend some of that time with friends or traveling if they wish (New Year’s at Times Square in New York or watching fireworks by the ocean may be on their “list of things to see”).

In addition to sharing your traditions, don’t forget to find out what your au pair usually does with her / his family for Christmas or New Year’s. Find the type of foods they eat and encourage them to prepare German christmas cookies or Stollen with the kids. Maybe find the goodies they are used to having at your local “World Market” and make sure they have the opportunity to call home.
Blues… and homesickness… These can truly happen, and although it does not mean your au pair is just going to pack up and leave, it does mean they need your support and inclusion more than ever. Don’t worry… comes January they will be off with friends on the week-ends, or going to the movies during the evening again. And each au pair is different! It depends so much how attached they are to their home traditions and to their family.
Below are a few holiday tradition from countries represented by Cultural Care Au Pair, along with a picture of part of our au pair group two years ago.
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Greenville, December 1, 2007 - Cultural Care au pairs at the Christmas parade.

We represented our countries at the local Christmas Parade under the banner of the International Center of the Upstate!

Brazil: Between December 24th and January 6th, there is an event in the most traditional regions called Folia de Reis, which consist in processions through the city singing Christmas carols for the “Menino-Deus” (The “Baby Jesus”) and the Three Kings. On Epiphany or Three Kings Day, January 6, children put their shoes beside the window or outside the door, hoping that in the night their shoes will be filled with candy by the three wise men.

Czech Republic: Three Kings Day (Tri Kralu), the last day of Christmas historically celebrated on January 6, is celebrated by young boys in the Czech Republic. They wear white robes and paper crowns and visit neighboring homes. At each home they write the letters “K+M+B” (Kasper, Melchoir and Balthazar) and the year in honor of the three wise men.

Germany: Advent is celebrated in Germany with an advent candle. A candle is marked with the dates December first through 24. As a countdown for Christmas, each night the candle is lit and burned just until it hits the next day’s date.

Ecuador: Christmas festivities begin earlier in the month with Novenas, masses and events recalling the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. The highpoint of the celebrations is the festival of the traveling Infant Child, the Pase del Nino Viajero on December 24.

Poland: St. Nicolas Day is celebrated on January 6, when parents place small presents under their children’s pillows or in their shoes. Polish children wake up to small toys and candies in their shoes.

Sweden: The feast of St. Lucia is celebrated on December 13. Young girls awaken their families wearing crowns of candles and white robes, symbolically representing the bringing of light into the darkness winter. The same ceremony is repeated in schools and office.


About FrenchNad

English to French Translator & Interpreter; blogging at about a French word of the day, the challenges of interpreting and translating, and my adventures in Oregon!
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