The holidays can be a lonely and isolating time for many people, especially for international students, refugees, and immigrants. They are far from home, often separated from family and friends, and missing their familiar holiday traditions and celebrations. This season is the perfect time for us to practice hospitality! We have the opportunity to extend an invitation and welcome them into our homes where we can share our hearts while we learn about theirs.
Here is how some women in the community have shown Christ-like welcome around the holidays:
As a college student, I studied abroad during my junior year. I was shown such incredible hospitality and genuine curiosity in my host country, that when I returned home to the U.S., I stayed very active in my university’s International Student Association. I was a part of their buddy program where international students are paired with local students. During a meeting, we gave the international students an opportunity to ask us anything about U.S. culture and customs. My paired buddy Clara, who is from China, and some of the other students were especially curious about Thanksgiving. After answering their questions, I decided the best way for them to understand our custom was to experience it firsthand. I invited Clara and a couple of the other students to come home with me for Thanksgiving (surprise mom!).
In the end, Clara and another student, Brian, spent the holiday with my family. They asked a lot of interesting questions – not just about the American custom of Thanksgiving, but also about things they had seen on TV or in popular culture. They asked about different food choices and racism and what it was like to have siblings and so many cousins. When we got back to college they invited me to a small gathering with other international students. They made us a “Chinese Thanksgiving,” which was such an incredibly gracious exchange. -Jade
Did you know surveys show that somewhere between 70-80% of international students studying in the U.S. are never invited into someone’s home? It’s the perfect opportunity to open your home to someone who could use a welcome this time of year!
I have hosted international students as well as refugees for Thanksgiving. One year we had five of my ESL students come. It was their first time to be invited to Thanksgiving in America. -Linda
Do you have an extra place at the table for the holidays? Or do you have some time to learn about an immigrant holiday or tradition? Most people will be so excited to share their traditions with you and learn about yours.
When I was in graduate school, I brought two friends home for Thanksgiving. One was my colleague from Taiwan who was not a Christian, and one was my Christian housemate from China. My parents also invited two students from a local college, one from Nigeria and one from Brazil, for the day. It was a wonderful time! Some of them even cooked foods from their culture for us. We introduced them to our traditions, including decorating the Christmas tree, but I also learned a lot about their traditions and perspectives. – Christine
Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t the only holidays celebrated this time of year. There is also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Ōmisoka to name a few that your neighbors from other cultures or countries might be celebrating. The immigrants and refugees in your neighborhood also have their own beautiful and unique ways of celebrating. Have you ever joined a Nochebuena celebration? It’s amazing fun!
Ask your New American neighbors about their celebrations. Better yet, you can join in the fun!
I had a Taiwanese roommate spend Christmas and New Year with my family when I was in college. She took a train ride from New York to where we lived in Las Vegas so she could see more of the country. I ended up down with the flu for a good portion of her visit, but my siblings took her downtown to explore and she participated in all of our family traditions. I felt bad I couldn’t do as much with her but she assured me she had fun with everyone!
On the flip side, I once spent Christmas and New Year in Mexico with friends. My favorite memory was during a Skype call with my family on Christmas Eve, my Mexican friend and I were translating back and forth for our families, talking about our traditions. We then sang Silent Night together, in English and Spanish. It felt so beautiful celebrating our differences and similarities! – Alana