expat holiday traditions

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Celebrating Christmas Abroad

Quick link: 9 Ways to Make the Most of Christmas Abroad

Merry Meaty Christmas!

Today I’m over at A Life Overseas, with a post about things I’ve learned to help us celebrate Christmas while living abroad. It can be a complicated time of grief and joy, loss and unique discovery. The ‘family’ we celebrate shifts almost every year, so we hold some Jones Family traditions pretty tightly. So tightly that I traveled internationally with a foam WWF wrestling belt in my luggage and it was of utmost importance that this particular piece of luggage arrive on time.

Stuff shmuff. The cheaply made but expensive toys break. The box sent from the US arrives late, like next October late (which, in truth, can be super fun. Christmas in October? Why not!). Stuff is easily forgotten over the years. But the gift of a camping trip to the coast? A safari? SCUBA lessons? They are the ‘stuff’ of memories. (I will say, I am super thankful for the actual stuff I have received over the years, too. As anyone knows who asks about my running watch, I still rave about last year’s Christmas present.)

The privilege of making our own traditions. The first few Christmases abroad are blank slates. Do you love the breakfast tradition your family had in your home country and can you replicate it? Then do it. But do you want to have something else for breakfast? Awesome, your choice. We Joneses wrestle, bake cookies, go camping, and laugh at our ridiculous homemade ornaments. Those are yearly traditions. Others come and go depending on people, supplies, schedules. It can feel intimidating, or maybe even sad, to look at advent and Christmas and to feel pressure to make something meaningful. Think of it as an opportunity to creatively design your personalized traditions. (also, know that anything you do one and a half times will be considered a ‘tradition’ by your children.)

Family far away? Make a family. Local friends who don’t celebrate Christmas and local friends who do. New coworkers. Friends from school or sports. Singles and young families, empty nesters and college students. It can be easy to assume others aren’t lonely, like you. Or others have already been invited to dinner or a game night. But maybe they are also sitting at home feeling lonely and uninvited. Love the people far away, yes. Skype and send gifts or messages, visit. But love the people nearby, too. Love them well…

Click here to read the rest of 9 Ways to Make the Most of Christmas Abroad

A Thanksgiving Story

Quick link: An International Thanksgiving, Celebrating the American Holiday in Djibouti

It is a bit funny to me that almost all the posts I had drafted for this week are about Thanksgiving and being thankful. After the computer died, I am practicing thankfulness and it is good.

thanksgiving in djibouti

Today I’m over at Babble Voices with a Story book about what Thanksgiving looks like in Djibouti and about the stripping and freeing feeling expats experience when attempting to create holiday traditions in new countries.

Thanksgiving used to sound like football (the American version) and the ‘oof’ of being knocked into the snow or dirt by cousins bigger than me but now it sounds like the crack of a baseball bat against ball. Thanksgiving used to smell like mashed potatoes and turkey but now it sometimes smells like kebabs or Chinese food or turkey. Thanksgiving used to be a school day for our kids, until the school schedule was changed and now Thursdays are the start of the weekend…

Click here to see what else is different about our Thanksgiving holiday in Djibouti.

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