Culture Keeping on the Christmas Tree

With Christmas just two weeks away, I’ve seen several adoptive parents asking where to find Chinese or culturally themed ornaments for stocking stuffers and small Christmas presents for their children. Here is a light post, showcasing some of my Chinese themed ornaments I hung on my Christmas tree this weekend. Most of these were gifted to me by my mother over the years or purchased in China. Buying Chinese ornaments certainly isn’t an equivalent to necessary cultural socialization activities, but hanging these festive ornaments every year is a visual reminder of my cultural roots and that my parents respect and celebrate this part of my identity. If you’re curious where you can purchase some of these ornaments, I’ve provided their names and significance below.

Other Chinese cultural symbols one could look for in ornaments: phoenixes, lotus flowers (or the city tree or flower from where your child was born), jade, mahjong tiles, dragons, lanterns, fans, pagodas, the Great Wall, Zodiac animals, foods, and many more. You may not be able to find all of these in physical stores, but a little bit of online hunting should do the trick. Knowing what you’re looking for makes folding your adoptees’ Chinese culture into the Christmas decorating a little easier and gives them something special that represents one aspect of themselves to put on the tree. Merry Christmas season to those who celebrate!

1. @hallmark China: Joy to the World two piece ornament set from 2007, the year I returned to China for the first time. The Joy to the World set also has ornaments representing Norway, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, and Africa (reminder for Hallmark that Africa is not a country!).

2. @oldworldchristmas Foo Dog Chinese Guardian Lion Christmas Ornament (female), protecting our tree from harmful influences.

3. Similar to the Kurt Adler buri bristle panda ornament, because it’s China’s national animal after all. 🐼

4. Old World Christmas glass fortune cookie to represent my Chinese American fusion life. 🥠

5. This is from a set of cloisonné ornaments I purchased from a cloisonné factory in China. This art technique was introduced to China in the 13-14th centuries.

6. Old World Christmas Watermelon Wedge ornament, because all of the meals we ate in China concluded with a plate of watermelon slices. 🍉

7. I purchased this knit pig ornament from a street vendor in Beihai Park, Beijing, China during the year of the pig. 🐷

8. 1998 Hallmark Keepsake Child’s 4th Christmas Ornament gifted to me by a family friend for my second Christmas in the U.S.A. 🐼

9. Deer ornaments from a set purchased in China.

10. Chinese knot + pig ornament also purchased in China during the year of the pig. 🐖

6 responses to “Culture Keeping on the Christmas Tree

  1. I wonder for each child for whom it’s fun to see things from their culture, I wonder for how many it is a sad reminder of what they lost and how odd they feel not recognizing or feeling any connection to these things that seem now “foreign” to them?

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    • You’re right, each child is different and processes their adoption differently. In my family, I was given various ornaments – some of them Chinese – and some of them related to my other hobbies, travels, and favorite animals. It is my hope that these culturally related ornaments would not be unrecognizable to young adoptees because their adoptive parents would be facilitating conversations about China with them outside of the ornaments and have Chinese people in their adoptees’ lives who can provide some cultural context. For me, Chinese items may always be a reminder of everything I have lost, but they are also reminders of what and who I still am. Ultimately, I think a total assimilationist approach is more harmful to transnational and transracial adoptees, and ornaments may be just one small way to honor and remember adoptees’ original cultures.

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  2. Some children may not want a reminder that they are “different.” Instead of buying trnikets that make YOU feel good, why not visit a Chinese community and TALK with your child about how they FEEL? Ask if they remember their family or foster family and if they miss them? Open a door and let thme know it’s safe to talk about these things.

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    • I absolutely agree that giving ornaments is a small gesture and just one of many possible ways adoptive parents can demonstrate openness about infusing their child’s original culture in the home as well as openness about adoption as a topic at large. While providing these ornaments and symbols may be beneficial to adoptees who seek out a regular connection to their Chineseness, they should not replace active cultural socialization activities.

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  3. I love the foo dog more than the pandas, which is surprising for me. Its great to have a mix of culture on your Christmas tree to remind your family of their roots and also as conversation starters for visitors. It’s nice having things on your tree which have more meaning than a plain bauble or elf on the shelf.

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    • I agree about liking objects with meaning as opposed to more generic decorations. My favorite part of unwrapping each ornament and hanging them on the tree is reminiscing about the corresponding memories. Hope you had a nice holiday season!

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