For Refugees, New Year Means New Way of Life

By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Jan 1, 2009 1:50 PM CST
Aid workers process new arrivals at a refugee camp in Kenya. Birth dates are often unknown, so Jan. 1 is arbitrarily assigned.   (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
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(Newser) – It's no coincidence that 15% of recent Somali refugees to the US share a birthday today. Aid workers often assign Jan. 1 when a birth date is unavailable, as is often the case in war-ravaged and disaster-ridden countries or cultures that don't celebrate birthdays. American rituals seem especially peculiar to the latter, though refugees are increasingly embracing them, the Boston Globe reports.

Many Somali Bantus were already displaced at home and are learning about American customs through their rapidly assimilating kids. "It's hard if you are born while your parents, or your mother, is running through the jungles trying to get to safety," says a relief worker. "People don't have access to water or food, let alone proper documentation."