The holidays are a lovely time to open your doors to new friends.
As Squamish residents sit down to their holiday meals this year, they have a special opportunity to welcome new residents from countries such as Syria and Ukraine. Many of these newcomers may be struggling culturally or financially, trying to recreate some of the traditions of their homeland, while others are simply looking to connect with their new neighbours and share in the holiday spirit. This gives long-time locals a chance to welcome them with arms open wide.
"If you know anyone who is new to Squamish, consider inviting them to a holiday dinner or get-together. One important way to make the holidays more enjoyable and inclusive is to ask ahead of time about dietary restrictions," said Tanager, of Squamish Newcomer Services.
"Many people have cultural or religious reasons for not eating meat, only eating specific meats, not drinking alcohol, or not eating specific foods during the holidays, for example. It's important to keep an open mind to other people's experiences and preferences. If you're not sure what to cook, just ask!"
Depending on their country of origin, the chilly mountain climate may be a shock to some newcomers' systems. Maybe they've never experienced snow before, or haven't had the chance to engage in outdoor activities such as skiing or tobogganing. Involving them in your activities will help them acclimatize to their new reality — whether it's taking them carolling, going for a walk to enjoy the seasonal decorations, or even attending large potluck events.
"Share with your neighbours wintertime strategies for staying cozy, such as a box of your favourite tea, and consider sending along an invite to any seasonal events or outings you enjoy," said Tanager.
One thing to keep in mind when reaching out to your newcomer neighbours is that the holidays may be a difficult time for them, fraught with grief and loneliness. Because local customs may seem strange and alien to them, it's a good idea to incorporate elements of their home country's traditions into your plans.
"People from around the world celebrate lots of different holidays at different dates during the year. Squamish residents can be extra supportive of their newcomer neighbours by asking what and when they celebrate and by passing along good wishes during a special time such as Diwali, Chinese New Year, Ramadan, or Orthodox holidays on the Julian calendar. This can help make people feel like they are cared for and like they belong," she said.
The Sea to Sky Corridor is lucky to have Squamish Newcomer Services, an organization devoted to serving the newest members of the community. According to Tanager, they are currently looking for new ideas and working on expanding their itinerary of events.
"Squamish Newcomer Services will be hosting their annual holiday event this year at the United Church, date to be announced. Always a big hit, there will be Santa Claus, Christmas carols, and arts and crafts. This event is for newcomers to learn more about Canadian traditions as well as an opportunity for everyone to share about their own culture and traditions," she said.
"This event aims to help people feel welcome, like they have a place to go, and share food and laughter with a broader community that cares."
To learn about more events this holiday season, follow Squamish Welcome Centre & Settlement Service on Facebook or on their website welcomesquamish.ca.
"There are, of course, many things that can be done to support newcomers in Squamish during the winter months generally and during the Canadian holiday season specifically," Tanager said.
"If you have an idea of something you'd like to see happen, reach out to Squamish Welcome Centre."
Editor's note: This story originally appeared in The Squamish Chief's annual Holiday Guide, which was released Dec. 1, 2022.