Holidays from the eyes of a first-gen immigrant
Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator
How migratory grief makes the holiday season difficult for some immigrants
Immigration has the power to perplex many components of an immigrant's life and celebrating the holidays is one of them. While most people enjoy the New Year's and Christmas break with their friends and family, immigrants are often left feeling puzzled.
Time and time again, people tell us to be thankful for the opportunity that we have.
They tell us we have the luxury of living in a first-world country filled with freedom and liberty. They tell us we are living the dream of our people back home. They instruct us not to complain as we are the privileged ones compared to our fellow "third worlders."
Constantly hearing these bitter statements makes an immigrant feel as if they can't possibly be upset about anything. No one dares to discuss the brutal reality of migratory grief.
Migratory grief is significantly different from other types of grief, with the main difference being there is no actual disappearance. In most cases of grief, there usually involves a complete disappearance of someone or something.
However, with migratory loss, no one has disappeared and you're merely mourning the separation from the country of origin, which is still there. Perhaps because there is no physical disappearance, no one addresses the doleful aftermath of departing from your home country.
One of the hardships that often gets swept under the rug is the difficulty of celebrating a holiday that is so foreign to you.
To begin with, the celebration of Christmas and New Years is simply strange to most immigrants since we celebrate at a completely different time of the year. Moving past the sheer confusion, the customs that often accompany these holidays are also challenging to follow. Christmas is a package that comes with traditions such as receiving gifts, decorating trees and cookies with milk. Not only are most of these rituals unknown to an immigrant, but they are also costly.
Most first-generation immigrants are struggling financially and simply trying to make it day by day and Christmas shopping is the last thing on their minds. As a result, an immigrant often can't even partake in these festivities because of their financial circumstances.
Consequently, Christmas and other holidays become just a regular day — a regular day filled with disappointment, uncertainty and embarrassment. And to make things worse, you can't complain because others will label you as ungrateful.
Another factor that adds to the mix of these unpleasant feelings is the reminder of how your own holiday is just another day in this country. While most are celebrating Christmas, first-generation immigrants are thinking about their traditions back home and how much they miss them.
However, as mentioned above, you have no right to complain about such an “insignificant issue” as this should be a small price to pay for liberty and freedom.
As first-generations grow up and successfully integrate into Western society, the holiday season does not bother them as much as before due to the power of adaptation. However, I believe that it would have been great if we were given the room to mourn the loss of our country, traditions and customs as children.
Although we get over it after some years, the acknowledgement of our struggles as immigrants on a new land would have given us a smoother start.