making the world an {inclusive} place

an extra place at the Christmas table

In 2010, we found ourselves alone in Ukraine at Thanksgiving. For those that are not familiar with this American holiday, it is a big deal. In my opinion, it’s perhaps the best of America’s traditions. It’s a holiday focused not on gifts or commercialism, but on family and friends.

So for us, being alone at Thanksgiving in a place so far from home was tough.

Thankfully we had met an American couple who lived about an hour away, and they graciously invited us into their home to share a traditCV1ional Thanksgiving meal. I would say that they have no idea what that gesture meant to us, but as Americans living in a foreign country themselves, I think they knew exactly how much it meant. It was a Thanksgiving unlike any other, and yet it is one we look upon very fondly.

When people think of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, or other high holidays for that matter, most have happy thoughts. It might be a special recipe served only on that day, thoughts of the traditions that are held and passed down year after year, generation to generation, or bittersweet memories of times shared with loved ones who are no longer living. But generally speaking, there is a twinkle in the eye and a warmth in the heart.

But for some, the holidays are not looked upon with excitement and joy. For some, there is a sense of loneliness or despair. For whatever reason – financial hardship, living away from family, etc. – the holidays bring on feeling of anxiety, stress, or sadness.

table2England-native Kerry Mærøe saw this reality and recognized a need. Mærøe lives in Horten (Norway), along with her husband and their children.

Throughout Scandinavia, it is quite common to spend Christmas Eve with family, sharing a meal and other traditions together. Yet over the years, Kerry noticed that for various reasons, there were people around her who found themselves alone on the twenty-fourth of December.

“There are also many people like us who don’t have family here for julaften [Christmas Eve], so we decided several years ago to open our home.”

tableIt appears to be a growing trend in Norway, as many people are doing likewise. Several weeks ago, posts began appearing on Facebook, Finn.no and other social media outlets. Some were requests for assistance: someone needing a bit of help at Christmas, or looking for an extra place at someone’s Christmas gathering. Others were open invitations: families with extra seats at the table, opening their homes to those in their area who might not have someone with whom they would get to share a holiday meal.

Kerry noticed this, and decided to create a Facebook group. “The group was just a place to collect all the ads and make it easier for people to find each other.”

As of November 21, the group is comprised of more than 250 members. Numerous posts have been shared, both seeking a place to celebrate, and inviting others in.  And connections are being made.

P1060530Says Mærøe of the group, “personally I hope that it is something that we do all year round. Our house is always open and there is always food.”

If you live in Norway, we encourage you to take a moment and become part of the Facebook group. If you have room for one or two more, you can post in the group. Or if you are searching for a place to call home for the holidays, you can post that as well.

For our readers in other parts of world, consider this a challenge. Would you be willing to open your home to someone who might be alone during the holidays? Find a way to share kindness and love with those around you, during the holidays, and throughout the year.

Facebook Group: juleinvitasjon 2016

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