These N.L.ers are making new traditions and a home away from home this Christmas

·2 min read
Submitted by Saba El-Tahan
Submitted by Saba El-Tahan

With Christmas just around the corner, many people in Newfoundland and Labrador will celebrate around the tree with those close to them.

But for those who don't celebrate Christmas and who are away from home and from family, the season has a different meaning — especially during a pandemic.

"It's a point of contention with us, because my husband does want to get a tree and sometimes I want to give in ... but it's not something that we believe in," Saba El-Tahan told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

El-Tahan, a Muslim who grew up in New York, now resides in Bauline with her husband, who grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The couple does agree to avoid the commercial aspect of the holiday season, but El-Tahan said she isn't against local traditions and making a home away from home.

"It's just a nice time. You're off from work, it's a nice time to get together. I love lights, so I'm not complaining there," she said, laughing.

El-Tahan grew up in a mostly Jewish neighbourhood in New York and still has family there. Her father, she said, is still working and the added stress of COVID-19 is doubled by being away from her family.

"They even said 'you should stay there. Don't come, you're safe, don't risk it,' and I guess that's what this year's celebrations will be about," she said.

Paula Gale/CBC
Paula Gale/CBC

Bimal Tennakoon is from Sri Lanka, but has been living in St. John's for the last 11 years.

He said home is where you feel most comfortable, but still finds himself missing his family on the other side of the world.

"When you go home and you have a warm meal, and your mom is there and your father is there, all that comfort, that feels home to me more," he said.

Tennakoon's son was born in Newfoundland and Labrador and is a Canadian citizen, only meeting extended family on vacations to his father's home country. Tennakoon said his biggest hope for 2021 is returning to Sri Lanka to visit family.

And while he remains in St. John's this year for the holidays, Tennakoon said his family celebrates the cultural side of the Christmas, rather than the religious side.

"It [makes] your kids more familiar to a new culture, and they can also celebrate it and they get used to different events," he said.

"And we enjoy it, it's a good end to the year, it's a good thing."

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