Celebrating holidays in the US


Woman sitting on sofa and smiling- holidays in the US

Holidays in the US can make some immigrants and refugees nostalgic for their home country. Read about how Christmas and the new year are celebrated in Burundi.

The first time I celebrated the holidays in the United States, I was excited to see how people celebrate here. I was surprised that even people who are not Christian celebrate Christmas. Every December since then, I am reminded that holidays in the US are as exciting as anywhere else.

The ways in which people celebrate here are a little different from what I knew growing up. But the joy I see in people’s faces is the same.

Most of us are excited to spend time with our families. The holidays in the US are a great time to do this, which is also true for people around the world.

Two of my favorite childhood memories growing up were Christmas and New Year’s Eve. On Christmas Day, my parents would buy all the special holiday foods that we did not eat every day. My siblings and I would all get a new outfit to wear for the day. It was usually a more expensive outfit than what we would get during the year.

I have seen people do this during the holidays in the US as well, but for us, it meant a lot since getting new clothes was rare.

After putting on our nice Christmas outfits for church, we would gather at home and spend time together. Usually, it was just me, my siblings, and our parents. Neighbors joined in sometimes, taking the opportunity to enjoy food that they did not eat often. The older we got, the more people became part of our celebration. As a teen, I remember my dad sending us around our neighborhood with meat to give to our neighbors. It meant a lot because most people could not afford meat. So, the holiday time became even more special.

New Year’s Eve was a big celebration like it is as part of the holidays in the US. Even when we were little, we would sit around our living room as a family.

My parents would prepare game, which often included eating fruit from our fruits trees. We would get another new outfit for this.

It was the only night we were all allowed to stay awake until after midnight to wish each other a happy new year.We still do this during the holidays here in the US as well. The only difference now is that there are fireworks to welcome the new year.

Now that I have a family of my own, I like to mix some of the traditions I learned growing up and the ones that I have learned during holidays in the US.

For example, my family never had a Christmas tree before we came here. We always get one now. Our children enjoy decorating it and seeing the lights for a few weeks. The lights we see everywhere here during the holidays were a difference for me when I first came. They made the season even more exciting. Mixing this excitement with the kindness that we shared with our neighbors as children completes our holidays in the US now.

Refugees shaking hands

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About Nezia Munezero Kubwayo
Nezia Munezero-Kubwayo is a Burundian American humanitarian. She and her family were resettled in the United States from a refugee camp in Tanzania in 2002.