holiday-traditions Who doesn’t like a good holiday celebration? I know I do.

I often get questions in the contact center regarding different holidays.

  • Does my child celebrate such and such a holiday?
  • What are some holidays that are special to my child?
  • To be sensitive to my child’s culture and customs, are there things I shouldn’t talk about?
  • Should I only mention the tradition behind the celebration or can I also talk about the specific festivities?

The U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving is a good example. We are celebrating hospitality, God’s goodness, and how the kindness of strangers helped save a whole community.

It’s a great holiday and time with family, but how do we recognize it? Most of us over-eat, sit around watching football, and battle with strangers for parking spots and places in lines to buy stuff — which is hardly hospitable. And these customs would be difficult for a child in poverty to understand.

What about other holidays? Do you take your children trick-or-treating at Halloween? Do you hide eggs and eat Peeps at Easter?

Do you buy fireworks and light them up on Independence Day? These holidays are part of our culture and the way we celebrate is hard to avoid talking about.

So what do we tell our sponsored kids, Brett?

Be sensitive to their culture and customs.

For example, yoga is predominantly a form of exercise here in the U.S., and many Americans now practice it without any spiritual implications. However, yoga is still very much a Hindu practice in Asia, and thus it would have a negative implication to people who know about yoga’s Hindu roots.

Halloween is a time to take our kids out and get free candy from generous neighbors, but in Latin American countries the spiritual association is prominent. It’s associated with the Day of the Dead and is often celebrated with altars built to dead relatives – something the evangelical Christian community stays away from.

Then should I not tell my sponsored child about holiday celebrations?

Talk about the time you spend with your family. You can share your life with the children you sponsor. Be honest and open, but be sensitive.

You can also rely on our great staff members working in each of our country offices to be sure all communication delivered to the children is culturally acceptable and appropriate.

Finally, if you are unsure if something you are going to send or something you are going to write should be included, ask us.

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  1. Marvin
    Sep 21, 2011
    at 8:07 am

    I guess it depends on the country and how much you know about the country. I write to my sponsored child in the Philippines and talk about the 4th of July…and relate it back to them by talking about the Philippine Independence Day…from Spain. When I lived in the USA we did a fall festival October 31st. The church had games, gave away candy…. I explained Thanksgiving…and found they know about the American holiday. I now talk about the Chinese holidays (I currently live in The Republic of China) and explain to them what they mean to the local people and ask them to pray for people’s salvation in Christ and freedom from the bondage of temple worship…. By explaining the holiday they understand it better…it works in the Philippines because they know a lot about America and China…and have been influenced by the 2 cultures.

  2. Sep 21, 2011
    at 8:48 am

    This is great, Brett. I recently wrote to my kids about Thanksgiving but focused on what it means to be thankful. I wrote Scripture and talked about my on going Thankful list – telling them that each of their names were on that list.

    I think it’s always good to look for similarities. For example, when talking with my sponsored child in Peru last year, his mom was showing me pictures of David’s birthdays as a child. She was telling me how much David wanted a fancy, store-bought cake and how bad she felt that she couldn’t afford one. Instead she had to make one herself. I then shared with her that this is exactly what I do – make my own cakes for my children.

    • Andrea Mendenhall
      Sep 22, 2011
      at 7:00 am

      Beautiful!

  3. Sep 22, 2011
    at 12:10 am

    Very cool Jill :)

  4. Sep 22, 2011
    at 12:34 am

    When I helped out in the Bolivian country office, we would take any photos of Halloween and remove them from the letters. That would probably not be a good thing to sent to Latin America.

    Now, Bolivia has tons of feast. Just yesterday it was their valentines’ day and student day and day of the Spring. All in one!! And the centers were celebrating it big time.

  5. Sarah
    Sep 22, 2011
    at 11:24 am

    A while back when my Sponsor girlie was younger, I told her about thanksgiving and how the people came here because they couldn’t practice there religion and how God sent the Indians and the Indians and Pilgrims as they were called helped each other and now we celibrate it as a day that God gave us to be thankful for what he gives us and for him and so on. I talked aobut how the Indians could plant and the pilgrims could hunt and they taught each other and then had a meal togheter and prayed to God thanking Him they found each other. Other, than that, I just talk primarely about Christmas and don’t say much else.

  6. Kristen
    Sep 22, 2011
    at 2:23 pm

    If one part of a letter from sponsor to child is deemed culturally inappropriate, would that specific section of the letter be censored? Or would the whole letter be returned to the sender?

  7. Renee
    Sep 23, 2011
    at 2:53 pm

    I agree much depends on the country(s). I also try to be respectful to the fact that although my sponsor child might be learning of Christianity, maybe her parents still follow another religion. My girl lives in India, so I researched some of the Holidays there. I plan to send her Christmas and Easter cards, but also for some of the Indian Holidays that don’t have such a strong connotation to a particular deity. I sent a Diwali card that wished the Blessing of God on her family. That way they could either choose to read it as the Christina God or a Hindu deity. I also plan to send something for Holi, which is near Easter and is a fun celebration of Good over evil (and spraying each other with colored powders). I may send something for or mention some of the other holidays that are more for fun and celebrated in much of the world, such as Valentines. I’ll also describe how I celebrate the U.S. Independence day and wish her a happy Indian Independence Day in my letter nearer that holiday.

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