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An Immigrant's First American Christmas: Somali Bantus

Somali Bantu interpreter Awad Gure explains the meaning of a Christmas tree to Awes Darbane (left), Habiba Darbane and Osman Darbane.
Howard Berkes, NPR
Somali Bantu interpreter Awad Gure explains the meaning of a Christmas tree to Awes Darbane (left), Habiba Darbane and Osman Darbane.
The Jones family of Salt Lake City and the newly-arrived Barake family view the Christmas lights at Temple Square, a Utah tradition.
/ Howard Berkes, NPR
/
Howard Berkes, NPR
The Jones family of Salt Lake City and the newly-arrived Barake family view the Christmas lights at Temple Square, a Utah tradition.

The holiday season can be overwhelming, even for those who have seen it many times. But for those exposed to the Christmas phenomenon for the first time, the mix of shopping marathons, huge light displays and gift orgies can be utterly bewildering.

This is especially true for new arrivals to the United States, including Somali Bantu people who've been living in Kenyan refugee camps for the past decade. They're adjusting to a completely foreign culture, from socks and formal education to rent and other aspects of life in the United States. To help them along, their American hosts treat them to winter school celebrations and trips to see Christmas lights.

NPR's Howard Berkes visits Somali Bantu refugees in Salt Lake City as they experience the American holiday season for the first time. They find the excitement of Christmas contagious, even if confusion may linger over telling Santa from an NBA mascot.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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