American Christmas is a whole new experience that requires some training for someone who is not used it. I have lived in the U.S. now through eight Christmases. I’ve learned a lot about the holiday celebration, including what Christmas music sounds like apart from other music, but I still struggle with knowing what a friend or a family member who grew up here would really like as a gift. I lost count of how many times I searched “How to do Christmas shopping.”

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

I am someone who was not used to getting gifts before moving here. I am a believer of what Pope Francis said last week: “Have a humble Christmas.” The pope asked people to consider spending less on gifts and parties in order to help people overseas who are going through tough times. Recent reports found that Americans are spending an average of $932 on gifts this season. My family of more than eight in a Mogadishu lives on that amount every three months. I only wish every American would understand that what we spend on gifts for this season here is actually is a necessity for millions out there. Therefore, whatever gift we receive, small or large, should be valued. If we don’t receive any gifts we should still be grateful for what we have.

During a flight recently I sat next two young adults who actually spent the entire hour and half from Washington, D.C., to Boston talking about the gifts they have for their families. They also talked about the times they got some bad gifts they did not like. As I listened to them I could not help but recall that there was only one time my mother gave me a gift. She surprised me with brand new flip flops, and after months of walking barefoot it felt as if I had received the best gift ever. Mom saved some cash for months for this gift. In fact, we could have used that money to buy milk. But she was more worried for my feet.

Choosing gifts for my friends in Maine who are also from the same background as I am is easier than for those who have always lived here. I am sure that someone who has experienced the same trauma of war and famine as I have are delighted with easy things such as socks or gloves or even a Starbucks gift card. We often don’t go through the process of keeping things under the tree for a week and sitting around waiting to open the gifts. None of my Somali friends has a Christmas tree in their house as far as I know. It is not a thing we do, but I can also understand the idea. I love the decorations and ornaments.

I am grateful for the Christmas experience every year, watching families travel to see each other, siblings and parents meeting once again for some food and gifts. But I hope that we can talk to the young adults at home about gifts. If you don’t like your gift today, there are millions out there who need it. No gift is too small, or bad.

This Christmas, I am not looking for joy in the best gifts. I am feeling lucky to be this adult man who opens up several gifts wrapped nicely with my name on them. My Yarmouth family actually knows what makes me happy every year. If my mother gifted me a pair of flip flops that saved my feet from the heat of Mogadishu, now some nice socks to keep my feet warm will be what brings joy and delight.

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