Sunday, December 23, 2012
Culture, Christmas & Adoption
Somehow, in all the years I've watched Miracle on 34th Street, I've managed to miss this scene until this year, where a Dutch girl comes to see Macy's Santa. The mother explains that she's newly adopted, having spent time at an orphanage in Rotterdam. The point of the scene is that Santa can converse with her in her native language, thus proving to doubting Susan that he is the real Santa.
But what I see is the importance of language and culture in transcultural adoption. Look at how somber the little girl is while waiting to talk to Santa, and then look how her face lights up when he can actually talk to her in the language she knows! This isn't about the miracle of Santa Clause to me, it's about the importance of culture. . . .
According to the trivia section of IMDB, "In the untranslated dialogue with the Dutch girl, Santa Claus asks the child what she wants for Christmas the girl says she wants nothing, telling Santa she got her gift by being adopted by her new mother." Sweet, yes. But it doesn't change the optics about how important culture is, nor is the importance of culture inconsistent with the girl's happiness with being adopted. It's possible to both mourn the loss of culture and love one's adopted family.
So this 1947 movie got right something we sometimes forget today -- international adoption involves both loss and gain. And adoptive parents do the right thing when they try to keep their kids connected -- even in imperfect, incomplete ways -- with their birth cultures (No, I don't believe there's anything I can do to ensure that my children will truly experience their birth cultures living with me in America, but I also think I can do things that recognize and honor their birth cultures).
Holidays, including Christmas, can be a great time to bring a touch of your child's birth culture into your home. Consider these past posts:
Christmas and Adoption
A Touch of China Christmas Tree
A Touch of China Christmas Tree II