It’s been a while since I’ve actually been with my whole family for the holidays. The last time my immediate family got together in one place for Christmas was in 2008. Yes, 2008. That would have made me a fresh 20-year-old and barely a junior in college. You’ll understand a bit more of my story and about why that is if you read this post about home.
Being honest with you, I have to tell you that it’s hard. When a person thinks about Thanksgiving or Christmas, they think: family, laughter, cuddles, warmth, and love. Not seeing my family at all in two years, let alone celebrate the holidays with them is a huge burden/let down/ depressant. I spend a lot of time moping around wishing that maybe just once life could be normal for the holidays, but you know what? My life right now is my new ‘normal.’
As an expat you have to make certain sacrifices. An even if I lived in the States, the dream of having my entire family together for Christmas is one that’s most likely not feasible. I can get down about the thought, or I can dwell on the memories I have of wonderful Christmases. We had great ones. I don’t know about you, but we had all sorts of family Christmas traditions.
We were the type of family that would open our presents on Christmas Eve night as we sat snacking on all sorts of yummy treats: mini sausages, christmas cookies, cheese, ritz crackers, herring, and nuts. We’d listen to Christmas music or have ‘A Christmas Story’ playing in the background as we took turn opening gifts. My parents were stellar gift givers. One year we got a playstation with a couple of games. One of the games was an ATV racing game, and we stayed up till 4:00am playing it as a family. One year all of us kids got identical cameras, the next portable CD players (yeah before the days of mp3s), the next a ping-pong table. On Christmas day my mother would prepare a huge feast for us all to eat for lunch/dinner. I’m talking almost as big as Thanksgiving. it was wonderful.
All that to say, growing up is hard. It’s difficult for me to differentiate between if is this (not seeing family for the holidays for five years) ‘normal’ for everyone else or ‘abnormal?’ I know each person has their own story, and everyone has gone through circumstances that make them view and live life differently. It’s just puzzling for me to figure out, and even after five years I’m just as clueless. Maybe I’ll figure it out one day, or maybe it’ll forever be a mystery.
Whether your an expat or not, being away from ‘home’ for the holidays can be hard. Here are a few tips to help with those seasonal blues.
Make your own traditions: It’s very important for Derik and I to establish our own traditions as we begin our marriage journey. We plan on having kids eventually (like in 4 years eventually), and we’d love to have some solid traditions set in stone before they arrive. So far we’ve gotten setting up the tree the day after Thanksgiving down pretty good, as well as giving a personal stocking stuffed with little gifts that remind us of each other, on Christmas morning. We’ve spent (technically) four Christmases together, and always end up bringing something new to the plate that we love.
Go out of your way to make someone else’s day special: It’s called spreading the Christmas cheer, and is in fact, one of the most uplifting and rewarding things you can do. Why not buy a complete stranger’s drink at Starbucks? Why not bake a bunch of cookies for not only you but your neighbors? Why not give out a few more Christmas cards to those unsuspecting friends or relatives? Why not compliment someone on their shoes, hair, or jewelry? What will it take? An extra five minutes? I swear it’s totally worth it.
Reminisce over past holidays: It never hurts to relive the past! Look at all those old photos! Laugh at the fun times-enjoy those moments again. I cherish all the moments I was able to have with both my family and my friends over the Christmas holiday. Absolutely cherish them. Thankfully I’ve posted pictures on my Facebook since 2007, so at least I have those right?
Count your blessings: This is a hard one to do especially if you’re feeling down and out. But you know what? It’s a mood changer. Sure, you’re not with your loved ones. Sure you live a world away from your friends. Maybe you live in a country (like Korea) that doesn’t even celebrate Christmas or give you time off work. You’re healthy enough to enjoy a good read on my blog, and hopefully healthy enough to pick your feet up and go enjoy the snow, the lights, and festivals. If you’re an expat, you’re lucky enough to experience a different culture and learn new things you’d never learn staying at home! Overall, you’re alive. If you haven’t noticed, life is painfully fragile. You should be thankful for each day you have, and live it like it’s your last. You never know what tomorrow will bring you. YOU ARE BLESSED. Just remember that ok?
Although the holiday season is hard for a lot of us (ehhem…me), its still my favorite time of the year. I’m a sucker for Christmas trees, muddled wine, holiday music, compassionate people, and celebrating the true reason for the season: the birth of Jesus. Without Him, we’d have no reason to celebrate at all!
Now that we’re on the subject of celebrating, I want you all to meet one of my favorite blondes in all of blog-land. Her name is Helene and she truly knows how to have a good time. Head over to her blog Helene in Between, and even her blog design is a party! You’ll just love her positive attitude, her adventurous spirit, and her hilarious stories-I know it! She writes about being ‘discovered’ as a blogger in her post: I read your blog. This story is hilarious, and one that I can relate to (I have complete strangers come up to me and tell me all the time that they read my blog because they searched Geoje, Korea). Helene also writes a post called ‘If Mom was on Instagram‘ that had me in tears. In tears people! Last but not least she also is an aspiring rapper.