Personal Insights: Embrace the season and listen to the stories of our new arrivals

Terri Kruschke moved to Cork from America with her family in 2007. In this personal insight Terri reveals her reflections on Christmas and urges everyone to listen to the festive stories of Ireland's new arrivals.

Personal Insights: Embrace the season and listen to the stories of our new arrivals

As I prepare for yet another Christmas season here in Ireland, I take time to reflect on Christmases past.

I grew up in a traditional two-parent family, a white house in a small village in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota, USA

Santa Claus had no problem finding us because there was plenty of snow, his sleigh and reindeers had no problem delivering presents to us!

My father had eight brothers and sisters in his family, and my grandparents opened their doors to any of us who wanted to come for Christmas Day.

This was never an issue because my immediate family celebrated Christmas Eve in a slightly more multicultural way, with chili and tacos for dinner (no clue where this tradition started!!!) family presents opened on Christmas Eve and Mass at Midnight before going to bed to wake up to our stockings from Santa.

We would head "over the river and through the woods" to Grandmother's house ... unless a snowstorm had come in the night before.

With no mobile phone, no services, and possibly 30cm of snow or more falling in the night, you could literally put your life at risk by travelling in that kind of snow, even if it is Christmas Day.

With up to 26 cousins and 18 adults in my grandparents' home, it was a hubub of activity, laughter and fun throughout the two-story house and on the one-acre of land. Making snowmen, cross-country-skiing, sledding and ice skating on the nearby lake, frozen at least 50cm deep, were the activities of the day.

Terri's extended family back in 1989
Terri's extended family back in 1989

Contrast that to our Christmas in Ireland.

My husband, myself, and our two children (now aged 19 and 16), now living in 40 shades of green rather than in a "Winter Wonderland" - or the frozen tundra of nothingness, depending on your point of view!

We moved to Ireland in 2007 and have spent the past 12 years forming new traditions without the snow as well as doing our best to hold onto some of our childhood activities.

We watch the Late Late Toy show and put up our Christmas Tree during that weekend. We attended the Panto for about 10 years - we encountered nothing like that in America! - and enjoyed yelling at the stage along with the rest of the audience.

Christmas Markets and hot chocolate, Selection Boxes and Christmas Crackers.

Enjoying two weeks off of school and work to watch Christmas films, eating our way through tins of Roses and learning that we just don't like Christmas Cake! We even once spent "Christmas in Killarney" and, as Americans, felt we were living the dream as the song with that title suggests!

Yet we have not incorporated all of the Irish traditions into our all-American household. Since we celebrate Thanksgiving in November, we do not have Turkey on Christmas Day.

We only have four people in our house on Christmas Day. We take down the tree on New Year's Day, as per American tradition, and we buy half-price wrapping paper on the 27th and shop the sales.

What else do we do? We read the Christmas Story and reflect on the reason that Christmas is celebrated each year. We buy gifts for each other and send a few gifts "over the pond" to nieces and nephews.

We connect with relatives on Christmas Day, but with the 5-8 hour time difference (depending on which family members we want to ring!) it can be difficult to time it properly.

Personal Insights: Embrace the season and listen to the stories of our new arrivals

So that may end up being photos sent over WhatsApp or an email to say Merry Christmas. Most Americans go back to work on the 26th of December so if we don't catch them on Christmas Day it's life as normal the next day. I will admit that I certainly don't miss that aspect of Christmas Holidays in America!

When you talk to anyone who now lives in Ireland and have come from a different country, their stories are varied and unique. The challenges and blessings of celebrating Christmas in a country different than the one you were born in are very multi-faceted.

It's never as simple as it might seem, but if you take the time to truly listen, you can learn something new. You may never leave Ireland, but since 20% of the country is now immigrants, there is an opportunity to travel "around the world" to learn about Christmas customs and cultures without ever stepping on a plane or a ferry.

My hope is that we can be aware of the joys, challenges, difficulties, loneliness and uniqueness that come at Christmas time. Enjoy every moment, embrace the season, and keep your eyes open for a new story to add to your experience.

A very Happy Christmas to you!

This submission is part of a new digital initiative on irishexaminer.com called Personal Insights.
As part of the Personal Insights initiative we are asking readers, creative writing groups and writing enthusiasts in general to share personal essays chronicling an experience which has impacted their lives and any learnings from that life experience they would like to share with a wider audience.
The essays should be sent directly to the executive editor for news and digital, Dolan O’Hagan, at dolan.ohagan@examiner.ie for consideration.
Please note all submissions should be given the subject line ‘Personal Insights submission’ to ensure they are picked up and should include any related imagery and a contact telephone number.
Only submissions which meet the Irish Examiner’s own strict journalistic, ethical and legal guidelines will be considered for publication.
The Irish Examiner reserves the right to edit submissions in line with those guidelines and before publication direct contact will be made with the person who has submitted the content.
No payment will be made for submissions and our decision as regards publication is final.
Our goal is to publish one submission per week and use all our powers to make sure it is seen by as wide an audience as possible.
We look forward to reading your stories.

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