Nov 6, 2011

Balancing Two Cultures

October is pretty big on the Canadian cultural activity front, with both Thanksgiving (on the same Monday as the Japanese Sports Day, easy to remember and we get a day off!) and Halloween. We also had two cultural ambassadors here so it kind of felt like "all Canada, all the time!". Not that that is a bad thing!

My kids don't know much about Thanksgiving, and Domba can't remember last Halloween, so we started in late September with talking about what the holidays are. For us Thanksgiving is just about counting our blessings, the pilgrim story isn't really emphasized in Canada. We have two much loved Thanksgiving books, Franklin's Thanksgiving (CDN, JP, US) and Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks(CDN, JP, US). When Thanksgiving actually came around though we were off sight-seeing so put it off for the next day. Thank goodness my kids aren't too interested in calendars! We did celebrate Thanksgiving and my kids were thankful for a lot, from their yard and their family to all their toys. I'm very thankful for them.

Halloween has been gaining popularity in Japan the last few years. This year we joined some friends who organized trick or treating in their neighbourhood for a few kids. This is one of my favourite memories of my kids. They loved Halloween and hanging out with their friends, and I loved seeing the pure joy on their faces. We were so lucky to have other kids in Spinky's class who are English-speakers, and I am lucky that their parents are so awesome!

But October is over and it is time for Japanese culture to reign. We had a festival last week that consisted of dressing up, going downtown, and performing a traditional dance with thousands of others in our area. Next week is 7-5-3, and it is our first time to celebrate that. Not sure what we will do other than take pics! Then, the town I used to live in has an Autumn Festival which means taiko performances and free fresh tofu (nothing tastier in the world).

This monthly switching off of cultures doesn't really happen any other time so I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not. I do struggle with how to balance the two cultures though, and sometimes it feels like we get too much of one or the other.

I also struggle with how to talk with my kids about Japanese cultural events in English. I just don't have vocab for it. Other than Easter there is some sort of adaptation in Japan for most of the western things we celebrate but the opposite is not true. If my kids still don't get it or are stuck on the Japanified version there are lots of English books about my cultural holidays to draw on. But there's so little in English about Japanese holidays, especially at the picture book level.

Another struggle I have is with teaching my kids about Japanese traditions I am fuzzy on. I finally have New Year's down pat and now I have to figure out 7-5-3?

How do you balance between two or more cultures? How do you explain things to your kids you are clueless about?

1 comment:

  1. I have a similar problem. I try to get as much Serbian in my son's day as I can so I try to talk about our American reality in Serbian, and I end up switching to English or using "Serbenglish" words simply because I don't think Serbian (or maybe any language, not sure about this) has a vocabulary rich enough to accommodate the reality of so many cultures out there.


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