Japanese teacher celebrates multiple holiday traditions

Junko Birdsong has diverse holiday experience in different cultures


or Japanese teacher Junko Birdsong, as her homes transformed over the years, so did her holidays.

It’s important for us to learn every aspect of culture … so we can celebrate this learning opportunity.

— Japanese teacher Junko Birdsong

As a child in Osaka, Japan, Birdsong said she would wake up annually to find a small present from Santa next to her bed, usually containing chocolate from a “western” country. 

“To me, it [was] enough,” Birdsong said. “It’s already special.”

In Japan, Christmas is special for couples as well. It becomes a romantic date night where couples give each other expensive gifts. Around decorated cities, people play J-pop and Christmas songs, Birdsong said. 

“It’s dreamy [and] fun,” Birdsong said.

Now, Birdsong said she spends Christmas with her husband, Khalid, and daughter, Amina. The trio usually visit Birdsong’s in-laws in Georgia and Florida. There, they celebrate Kwanzaa together, which is a week-long holiday honoring African American culture. 

Photo courtesy of Junko Birdsong
Japanese teacher Junko Birdsong celebrates both Christmas and Kwanzaa, sharing new and old holiday traditions with her husband, Khalid, and daughter, Amina.

During the Kwanzaa celebration, Birdsong said her mother in-law passes on the traditions of the holiday, and makes sure to preserve the meaning of the holiday.   

“It’s important for us to learn every aspect of culture,” Birdsong said. “And luckily, my mother-in-law cares about those things so we can learn and celebrate this learning opportunity.”

Birdsong said she values the integration of various cultures into her holidays, an enjoys sharing those holidays with her family. 

“I like any cause to celebrate families and our time together,” Birdsong said. 

Just as she enjoys her family-filled holidays, she said she also hopes students enjoy their break as well. 

“I want them to have a relaxing and fun time,” Birdsong said, “and take a moment to rest.”