I love learning about other cultures – their history, traditions, customs, FOOD! It’s all fascinating. I believe that by understanding the differences, you also learn the similarities – and have the opportunity to embrace both. We might dress differently or speak other languages, but if you strip it all away, we are all people.

International etiquette is something I’ve also enjoyed exploring. Why is hugging so acceptable in some cultures while in others, shaking hands is a major faux pas? Why do some cultures require people to eat with different utensils and leave food behind on their plates, while that same behaviour might be considered insulting in other cultures? Talking at length about these cultural distinctions plays a very important role in our Social Graces workshops. Participants learn there is no one right or wrong way to do things –it’s simply different.

With that in mind, the festive season marries two of my very favourite things – cultural diversity and the holidays. I truly believe this time of year is the best time of year. The music, the decorations, the food – I love it all!

Something I really enjoy learning more about is how other cultures celebrate this special time. As someone with an Italian background, I grew up hearing stories of La Befana – an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way to St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. To this day, I can’t get into the holiday spirit until I eat torrone, an Italian nugget candy or crostoli, a delicious pastry. YUM!

As Vancouver is such a multi-cultural city, we’re lucky to have access to amazing music, delicious food and dazzling holiday events. One of my favourites– an absolute must do – is the Vancouver Christmas Market next to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Once you cross through the gates you are immediately transported into old world Germany. The food, the music, and the decorations are incredible. Plus, there is the huge bonus of discovering beautiful and unique holiday gifts and stocking stuffers at the many sales booths. Don’t forget to take a spin on the Christmas carousel – a magical ride for the young and the young at heart!

If you are looking for a fun holiday activity with your children, why not learn about how other countries celebrate Christmas or their festive season? There are lots of informative websites with a ton of excellent suggestions. Try cooking or baking an exotic festive recipe. Your creation could be a welcome addition to your child’s school holiday party.

Whatever you choose to do, take the time to celebrate friends and family, reflect on the past year, look forward to 2016 and count your blessings. From my family to yours, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season. Joyeux Noël, UKhisimusi omuhle, Frohe Weihnachten, Buon Natale, Quvianagli Anaiyyuniqpaliqsi, Merry Christmas!

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