Friday, June 3, 2016

How to Figure Out Which Native Holidays to Celebrate

When we came to Spain, we were overwhelmed with all the holidays! Every saint has a special day. The patron saints of towns, provinces, and country are celebrated with days off from work. Town fiestas last a whole week in some cases, and it seemed to us like the Spanish people didn’t ever work! After we understood the language a little better, we realized that certain cultural events were being held to honor saints or the Virgin Mary. And, in February, there’s a whole week of Carnival (the last sinful fling before Lent). So, we had to decide which holidays we could participate in without messing up our testimony. Which ones are okay for our kids? What social events can we do with our neighbors?

The dilemma is worldwide! Missionaries everywhere try to discern where they fit into the culture—or indeed if they can participate in any holiday!

How can you make right, godly decisions for your family?

Here are some things I’ve learned through the years:
  1. Do your own research. I used to ask other people. Most of the Spanish people in our church didn’t have any clue what the next holiday was about! (It was a day off. That was enough for them!) Our co-workers might know, but maybe not. Soooo after getting it right sometimes and getting it wrong other times, I decided to find out on my own. Back in the old days, that meant finding out the name of the holiday and looking it up in the encyclopedia. But now, in two clicks, I know what the holiday is about, some of its history, and whether or not I can in good conscience participate. We ruled out anything that celebrates false religion.
  2. Pray. Our family had to make some difficult decisions. Our daughter played in an orchestra, and they would perform for different occasions. Almost every activity in Spain is on Sundays. Our family made the decision that our children were not allowed to skip church for any reason (besides sickness, of course). We also ruled out all concerts in honor of saints. This meant that she missed most of her orchestra’s performances, but we could live happily with our decision.
  3. Say yes when you can. Do what you can do in good conscience. For us, that meant stopping by a folk art festival in our town after church. It meant our son could go to road rallies, car shows, and a motocross show with his buddies (on Saturdays). He participated in art contests with local kids during the town fiestas. When they were small, our kids enjoyed riding on little cars and carts. We ate dinner once a year with our townspeople. (But, we didn’t go to any activity in honor of saints or go dancing in the evenings. After the first year, no one even invited us. Our neighbors probably think we’re party poopers!)
  4. Make sure your kids understand why you don’t want them to participate in certain holidays. This is so important! Why don’t we dress up for Carnival? (It’s like Mardi Gras.) Why don’t we watch folk dancing on certain days—even though the costumes are perfectly modest and the dancing isn’t sensual? Why can’t I be with my friend’s family today? What’s wrong with _________________? (You can fill in the blank.) Especially when your children are ten and older, they need to understand why you and your husband hold the positions you do about the native holidays. Explain. Tell them why you do or don’t do certain activities. Let them ask questions and guide them to understanding your position. Your home country has only a few vacation-type holidays, and they're based on Christian principles or celebrating independence and true heroes. We never had to face these choices before!
  5. Celebrate your own holidays in a big way. Our family honestly did most things simply, but we tried to make Christmas a big deal. We made birthdays special. We dyed eggs at Easter and taught our kids about new life in Christ. We bought chocolate eggs and bunnies, too. (I totally respect you if you don’t.) We would eat American food and make the table red, white, and blue for the Fourth of July. Our family always had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and decorated the house with fake colored leaves and cute little pilgrims. Even though pumpkin pie isn’t our kids’ favorite, I always made it.

I feel that it’s extremely important not to always say no to our kids. We need to have happy times with them—even if it’s only with our own family or missionary team. We need to celebrate and have fun and enjoy Christian holidays. We’re making significant memories with our kids.

What you do with your family is your business, and I’m sure you’ll make good decisions about your local holidays.

Back in Old Testament times, the Jewish people enjoyed not one or two, but seven different holidays (feasts) that celebrated Who God is. They had special traditions, ate together, and enjoyed those special days. Some of those feasts lasted several days! I believe it’s a precedent for us. There should be some holidays when we remember the Lord and enjoy traditional meals together.

Can you participate in the holidays of your adopted country? Seek God’s face, do your homework, and discuss the holidays with your husband. Enjoy what you can, and celebrate your own holidays in a special way.

God bless you!

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