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First Christmas

Last month saw over 100 community sponsored newcomers celebrate their first Christmas in the UK. The Huffington Post met one family in South West England to find out how they would be celebrating:

"For Mohammed, a 24-year-old Palestinian, Christmas feels new and strange, and though he is Muslim, he is keen to embrace the traditions of his new home. “Everything in the UK is different – different language, different culture, different jobs, but everything is good but it is expensive,” he says.

He has lived in Taunton, Somerset, with his family since April after they fled from Iraq. He is supported by Christian Help and Action for Refugees in Somerset (CHARIS), a community sponsorship group who have sponsored two families in the last two years .

He lives with his mother and father, his 23-year-old brother and his sister, 17. Back in Iraq, he has a wife and two sisters who live with their families.

“I miss my wife and two sisters and their family who are back in Iraq. I like the UK – I will not go back to Iraq,” he said of his experience in Britain.

Christmas Day will be a celebration of music and a hybrid of his two worlds. Laying out his plans, he said: “I will be staying at home with my family, we will eat party food, maybe we will play some games. We may also do some dancing and singing, my sister and I like Turkish music.

“We will also listen to Arabic music and maybe some English music. I may also go to the town centre and party with English people.”

He added: “As a Muslim we have different traditions, like the food we eat. The UK is now my home.”

While in Iraq, Mohammed and his family made and sold baklava, a sweet dessert made of paper-thin pastry, chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup. It’s a small business which he envisions carrying on in Taunton as a market stall, selling other Arabic food alongside it, he said.

But he also has other ambitions. “For me I would like to go to college and study to become a mechanic. If I cannot do this, I will do any job because in Iraq everyone gives all their energy to work.

“I would like my wife to come to the UK, I would like us to have a small home and I would like a small job so I can learn more English. For my family we would like my two sisters and their families to come to the UK.

Mohammed isn’t the only one in his family to passionately call Britain home.

His father said: “I am now an Englishman, I like all English traditions, English people have a good heart, they have mercy, they are kind and [have] a love for humanity, all their words are sincere.” "

Article by Isabel Togoh, Huffington Post. Read the full article here

Photo Credit: CHARIS. Mohammed and his family visited London with CHARIS this Christmas .

Posted on 14 Jan, 2019