Observing Holidays and Traditions Abroad
For many expats, homesickness is the strongest each time their favorite festivities and holidays from back home roll around. More often than not, the realization of not sharing treasured cultural events with the people in their new surrounding can be tough to swallow. To alleviate this, our Expat Experiences section offers a wealth of reading material!
I will never forget Christmas of my first year living in Vietnam 15 years ago. I had befriended some Europeans working for Medicines Sans Frontieres who invited me to go to the seaside with them for a few days over the holidays. On the way there they pointed under my seat to a box which they said held two turkeys. Where they found turkeys in the middle of the Mekong Delta I will never know! However, I will never forget cooking those turkeys over the BBQ (a rather unique experience in itself!), eating Christmas dinner overlooking the sea of Thailand with prawns, fish and all kinds of other delicacies, and afterwards gathering around the fire with music from a guitar and millions of stars twinkling overhead. Yes, all was well with the world.
It helps a lot to have some friends who grew up in the same place you are from (language barrier elimination aside), or with people who are just plain enthusiastic about your culture and participating in your yearly traditions. Despite many of my non-American friends’ skepticism towards pumpkin pie, everyone who I have ever invited to my Thanksgivings (from my culture or another) have always been very grateful to experience a real American Thanksgiving (which of course they have seen on television or in film) and talk about it for years to come. It certainly makes everyone feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.
Even if it takes a lot of courage to make a sense of this past experience, it is an important step for growth. The family home will not be there forever and our parents will also not be eternally around, so let’s make the most of this occasion to better understand ourselves. Re-writing the childhood chapters of our life story can be a proving but an exciting experience!
After becoming parents and with a young family of our own, we realised it was time to make a decision for our children. A decision that will determine 'which' Christmas we're going to have and what it will mean to them. We needed to decide which Christmas events we want embroidered in their childhood memories.