How blending cultures, values and traditions helps hold our multicultural family together
As you all know my husband comes from Persia and I am English. I was born and raised in the North East of England, while my husband, H, grew up in Persia. I grew up in a very small colliery village, while H grew up in the city of Tehran.
As a result of this, we have grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles 4,000 miles away and our separate family units couldn’t be any more different from each other.
I decided to write this post because I’ve been asked many times since I started my blog if I celebrate Persian traditions here in the UK purely because of my husband. It was even on the lips of our health visitor when she came to see us for the first time. The answer is plain and simple – NO!
In my opinion, when you meet someone from a different culture and decide to spend the rest of your life with them, you need to learn to navigate as a team. Sometimes the cultural elements present challenges, but it’s been my commitment to blending cultures, values and traditions that has kept us strong.
If I’d been told that on our wedding day I’d be inviting someone to dance with a large knife in front of family and friends and other bemused onlookers, it’s possible I may have laughed at the absurdity of it all.
And if I’d been told that we’d be smashing eggs under the tyres of our Rolls-Royce Phantom and wafting wild rue incense above our heads as we set off – to ward off the evil eye – it would have raised a chuckle.
If I’d been informed that I’d be jumping over a fire and chanting one day of the year, I’d have told you it was far too dangerous.
And if I’d been told I’d be growing lentil sprouts only to throw them into a river a month later, I’d have giggled.
Most of all, if I’d been told I’d be eating kale pache (sheep’s head soup) for breakfast, I’d have definitely pulled a face and told you there was no way I’d do that…famous last words.
I’ve since done all of the above and more and everything I have learned from my husband’s culture has been full of fun, joy and love … even eating the sheep soup.
In the years since we first met, we have worked at our multicultural relationship which has grown from strength to strength. So instead of arguing over what to name our new baby, we agreed at the 12-week scan on Cyrus because everything about him was great.
Living with a culture so different from my own does mean that there have been cultural misunderstandings and frequent translations back and forth, but our marriage has helped us blur racial, nationalistic and cultural lines.
I now feel the need to teach Cyrus about his heritage more than my husband. The cultural side of things is important for my in-laws because it’s something we can share via video link despite being miles apart.
My mother-in-law hasn’t seen Cyrus yet which breaks our hearts and I know she wishes that was different. She’d love nothing more than to jump right in and play with him and cook for us. Sadly our finances do not allow us all to get together at the moment and that is very hard for us.
Given that I grew up in a monoculture family, exposing Cyrus to all kinds of different cultures, celebrating lots of holidays and raising him bilingually is important to me. The decision is a no-brainer. We have two cultures, so we will celebrate the best of both worlds and definitely make sure that Cyrus grows up learning two (if not more) languages.
We will read Persian books, watch movies, listen to songs, cook food and try to help him build a solid sense of identity. Though he’s not aware of it yet, he has already celebrated his first Shab-e Yalda, Christmas, New Year, Chaharshanbe Suri, Norooz and Seezdah Bedar since he was born. He is soon to get his first Easter egg.
I want him to feel both Asian and English and speak, sing and talk in Farsi, study in English and learn another foreign language at school.
I’m not going to gloss over the differences with him as he grows and asks questions. The best strategy that has worked for us so far has been to acknowledge and embrace both cultures because they incorporate who we both are as parents.