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Immigrant seniors keeping their Christmas traditions alive

Anita Kapur and Julie Zhu have been celebrating the festival in Canada for years
Anita Kapur is a former teacher and currently a student at Langley’s New Directions English Language School (Tanmay Ahluwalia/Langley Advance Times)

Christmas in India is celebrated with street parades, singing of ‘jingle bells,’ festival lightings, dinner parties, Santa hats, and so much more, shared 65-year-old Anita Kapur, an immigrant from the country’s Ludhiana city.

A former teacher in India, Kapur noted that her students – of all faiths – participated in the celebrations – most of them dressing up as Santa Claus.

“Kids wear colourful dresses. On the day of Christmas, people visit churches, which are decorated for the festival,” she recounted.

“We all would go with our friends to the church,” she added, recalling that at her school, students also distributed sweets and sang.

“Every kid is dressed in Santa clothes, and everyone is singing the song,” she shared with a grin.

In addition, schools decorate their walls with cotton, ornaments, paint, and more.

“Our teachers decorate the school very nicely and people enjoy community dinners.”

Throughout the day, shops run special offers and even offer Santa dresses for rent – something Kapur said she hasn’t seen in Canada.

“It is different here… but in India, too Christmas is celebrated with great enthusiasm,” she emphasized and told Langley Advance Times that she wants everybody to know about the country’s diversity.

Her first Chirstmas in Canada was celebrated seven years ago, when she immigrated to Cloverdale to live with her sons and grandchildren.

Kapur said she was curious but not surprised when she first experienced the festival celebrations in Canada.

Her grandchildren prepare for Christmas a month in advance, decorate a tree at their residence, and eagerly wait for gifts they believe Santa delivered.

“My granddaughter believes Santa is real, and that is cute,” she giggled. , noting her family members exchange gifts during Christmas.

“Sometimes we also have Christmas party at our house with friends and relatives, and we wear new clothes,” she said.

It is “lots of fun,” but what Kapur excitedly looks forward to, is her get-together with the seniors club members. Every year, the club organizes a Christmas party in Surrey, where local Hindi and Punjabi singers volunteer their time to entertain seniors.

Kapur, too, loves participating in group singing. This year, the event is on Saturday, Dec. 24, and as always, she is excited to attend.

She admitted that traditions are a little different in Canada, but certain customs from back home have kept the community together, Kapur said, taking time out from her English Language classes at Langley’s New Directions to talk about her take on the holiday.

While for Kapur, these cultural overlaps brought curiosity, it was all new for 55-year-old Julie Zhu, a fellow classmate who started celebrating Christmas after immigrating from China more than eight years ago.

Her big family celebrates the festival by decorating their house with lights and ornaments, dancing, singing, and eating pork and vegetables.

The occasion allows the family to spend more time together and decorate the house with lights, ornaments, wall hangings, and more, Zhu explained.

Kids in the family eagerly wait for gifts from the big man in red and exchange greetings. The day ends with a family dinner and a movie after.

Julie Zhu celebrates Christmas with her big family in Aldergrove. (Tanmay Ahluwalia/Langley Advance Times)

Tanmay Ahluwalia

About the Author: Tanmay Ahluwalia

Tanmay Ahluwalia is a journalist with a digital mindset and a proud alumnus of the University of Delhi.
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