Over the past 21 years, I have had the opportunity to celebrate hundreds of holidays in Germany and the US. As I have lived in multiple countries, I have adopted new holidays and also created my traditions. Especially as we prepare for the busiest holiday season, I have been reflecting on the exciting and different holidays that I have experienced.
In this blog post, I will share what I learned about holidays living in Germany and the US. Check out my other Her Relocation blog posts about my experiences living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
Christmas in Germany
The first Christmas I spent in Germany was very different. To start with, it was the first winter I experienced, and it snowed a lot. Secondly, I was about to learn that Germans celebrate Christmas very differently. When I was growing up in Nigeria, the major festivities were on December 25th, and on the 26th, we got to continue celebrating with our extended family. Now that I was in Germany, I learned that people celebrated on Christmas eve. I lived in Germany for 14 years and never got used to it. However, one aspect of Christmas that I really loved were the Christmas Markets. I made it a point to visit the ones around me every single year. It became a part of my Christmas traditions in Germany.
New Year's traditions in Germany
In my early years in Germany, I was very surprised at how people celebrated the start of the year. I learned about many families' traditions, such as coming together and eating special meals on New Year's Eve. This was very different for me growing up in Nigeria, where we typically spent New Year's eve in Church. After 21 years of living abroad, I have adopted enjoying family time and special meals to mark the start of the new year.
Discovering "Karneval" in Cologne
Around the world, many countries celebrate Carnival. Nigeria is not one of those countries. I had only seen a place transform into a big party city for a few days every year when I moved to Cologne in 2010. Everyone comes out to celebrate Carnival and the traditions around it. At work, they asked us to come in costumes. I had never worn one before and did not even know how to choose what I wanted to dress as. So I went as myself without a costume. I admire people who plan their outfits for months and are passionate about it.
Easter traditions in Germany and the US
Growing up in Nigeria, the Easter celebration focused on the religious aspects and was a time for families to come together. The first time I heard about the Easter bunny in Germany, I did not really understand the connection. When I moved to the US, I learned about the Easter egg hunt, kids dressing up, and other Easter traditions. Interestingly, I now forget Easter celebrations since I moved to the US because it is not a holiday, unlike in Germany and Nigeria.
Celebrating the 4th of July in the US
When the stores start filling up with items with the American flag, I am reminded that Independence Day is approaching. The traditions where people spend time with family and friends outside are awesome to see. In some cities, there are parades and more connections to the historical events around the celebrations. Interestingly, I really like the time off that happens around this time and spending time with people I like, but I rarely think about the day's symbolism.
Halloween in the US
Celebrating Halloween is becoming something that many countries have learned from the US. However, the way everything changes once fall sets in to remind people that Halloween is around the corner is very American. I am not too fond of scary things, so this is a holiday that I skip. As I navigate holidays as a mother, this is one where I ask myself how I can find a way for our son to participate in the kid's activities around Halloween. This year, our son's daycare is hosting a Halloween parade. I need help thinking about the costumes that he can wear. One part of Halloween that my Nigerian upbringing is stopping me from getting used to is Trick & Treat, where kids go door to door and gather candy. There is just something about accepting candy from strangers that raises alarms in my mind. I am smiling as I think about it.
Thanksgiving in the US
Thanksgiving was a very new holiday to me when I moved to the US in 2015. It is not a holiday that is celebrated in Germany and Nigeria. Over the past years, I have been learning about the holiday and its transitions. The size of the turkey was one of the first scary things I experienced on my first thanksgiving here. There is something special about celebrating with family and friends. In our home, we celebrate thanksgiving with Chicken and a Nigerian rice dish. That is our way of combining our Nigerian heritage on this very American holiday.
Gifts are a huge deal for Christmas in the US
The other day, I told my husband how surprised I was that advertisements for Christmas gifts had already started in October. In the US, people really take gift-giving very seriously. I still remember my first Christmas here when we visited some extended family, and they spent considerable time exchanging gifts. My husband and I quickly decided we wanted to celebrate the season and not be caught up in the gift-buying craze in November and December.
Learning about other people's holidays
One of the great benefits of being an immigrant is that we get to meet a lot of people who have cultures and religions that are different from ours. Over the years, I have learned about many cultural and religious holidays. Among the differences, there are some commonalities in how we celebrate holidays. I have found that food always plays an important role.
As immigrants, we have created a great combination of the holidays we celebrate in the countries we grew up in and the new ones in the countries where we now live. The merging of cultures and traditions makes our experiences very unique. I am excited to learn more about holiday traditions from the places where I live and the people around me.