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How Do We Pass On Christmas Traditions?

OPB | Dec. 21, 2012 7:30 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 7, 2013 11:57 a.m.

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How do we teach holiday traditions? For some people, they’re passed from parent to child. OPB’s Amanda Peacher has the story of how one young Thai girl learned about Christmas from a family friend.

Fifty-eight-year-old Laura Grandin and fifth grader Anne Bordeeret have been friends for three years.

“She helps me with homework and she takes me to trips to the forest I’ve never been to or to the zoo,” says Anne. “It’s been really fun.”

Anne was born here, but her family is from Thailand. She met Grandin through her parents, when Grandin was helping them with some documents for their Thai restaurants. Grandin and Anne gradually became buddies. Grandin would explain certain American customs or English words to Anne. Anne was especially curious about American holidays.

Anne Bordeeret and her friend Laura Grandin with Anne's younger sister.

Anne Bordeeret and her friend Laura Grandin with Anne's younger sister.

OPB

“Some holidays you get dressed up, some you eat together,” Grandin said. “Some, there’s no school, some there is school. So, trying to make sense of the holidays and when you do what was just completely a mystery. And I realized that if your family didn’t grow up with them then, you know where do you learn what to do on different holidays?”

Traditionally, Anne’s family didn’t celebrate Christmas, but she was very curious about the holiday.

“When I first heard about Christmas, I was very excited,” Anne said. “I told my parents about it, and they did know about it but we didn’t celebrate it as one of the big holidays. “

In first grade, Anne decided she wanted to observe Christmas.

“When I heard about Santa I was very excited,” she said.

Her parents went along with the idea, but it was Anne who decided how they’d celebrate. She had them buy a plastic tree and some tinsel.

“My parents, even though they have three restaurants … they’re very low on money so I always feel like I want a present so I tried really hard to believe in Santa and act very good,” she said.

She put out cookies. She poured a glass of milk. She rushed downstairs on Christmas morning. But Santa hadn’t come.

“I was very very sad,” she said. “I thought Santa didn’t come was because I was a bad girl or a mean girl or something. The next year I very very much hoped he would come.”

Between that Christmas and the next, Anne and Grandin had met and become friends. As Anne’s second Christmas drew near, Grandin told Anne that she should try to believe in Santa again. They made a Christmas list together. Again, Anne got the Christmas tree up, and decorated the house.

On Christmas morning, Grandin got a call: “It was Anne,” she said. “You were so excited. You said, ‘He came, he came, he brought me my boots! How did he know what size I wore? How did he even know I like pink stuff?’”

In the three years since, Grandin and Anne have remained good friends, and Santa has come every year.

“I feel like it’s a real holiday to me because I look up to someone who is very big, and he eats my cookies and he gives me presents,” Anne said. “It’s always very fun.”

This year, Anne has her list for Santa. And as always, her friend Laura Grandin is crossing her fingers that Anne gets her wish.

Sources for this story came to OPB through our Public Insight Network. You can share your story on at OPB.org/publicinsight.

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