Holiday celebrations are a stressful but also a joyful time of year. There are so many different holiday traditions to observe, especially when living abroad.
There are so many ways in which to celebrate, that it is easy to let your traditions go so that you could immerse yourself into your new culture.
At least that is what I did in my first few years after immigrating.
This was, of course, a bit of a mistake, as it meant forgetting an important part of me and my family traditions
(which holds a lot more meaning once you cannot be there to take part in them).
This led to awfully bad homesickness for several years. Which I was already having problems with. It got so bad that I was even dreading the holidays.
Then one year it hit me. It took me awhile, but I got there. I was going to teach my family what the holidays meant to me.
Now, out of respect for the Dutch tradition of 5 December (St Klaas), no holiday items came into the house before 6 December. Each spouse’s tradition received respect and space to just be.
What I actually did that first year was to explain what it was I was doing, to my family and the in-laws, so they knew what was to be expected.
For example, we follow the European tradition of celebrating the holidays on the 24th of December.
I explained about how it was about being together, the food, the cosiness, and lastly the gifts (the kids would have put the gifts higher up on the list).
24th December in the morning we Skype with my family in Australia and watch them unwrap their gifts. In the afternoon or evening we celebrate with the in-laws, aunts, and uncles etc.
25thDecember, is just for us. Our little family. This is usually done in the morning and we once again Skype with my family in Australia as they watch my kids unwrap their gifts.
26thDecember is usually when we get together with some friends, play games, go for a walk and eat the leftovers.
I also observe some rules as to gift giving for the children. I have three and to have two gift giving traditions in the same month could get out of hand very quickly.
For 5 December, my children would only receive three gifts, because for about two weeks before hand they are allowed to put out a shoe, by the fireplace and sing for a gift (not every night, but two to three times a week). This also adds up in the gift department.
For 24/25 December they receive 4 gifts. Many years ago, I was browsing Pinterest when I came across this saying and have since adopted it for myself.
‘Something they want,
Something they need,
Something to wear,
And Something to read.’
My family really enjoy the holidays and have embraced my traditions, in other words they love to eat, and I do tend to go all out planning the meals.
It has taken many years to refine the rhythm we now have during the holidays, and my extended family have now embraced it and carry it on whenever we go to their house.
Even to this day we are still finding our flow. Last year we ended the day with an old Erol Flynn movie, and we all enjoyed it so much that we want to do it again this year.
So let me just recap our holiday traditions:
Respect each other’s traditions, give them space to be celebrated. Start your traditions and allow them to evolve into something uniquely you.
Set rules for yourself so as to not be overwhelmed and most importantly, get the entire family involved, have them be actively involved.
Importantly, show your children what is important to you and explain why. Let them know and remember that they are part of a bigger tradition then just that of the country they live in.
Most of all relax and have fun. These are your traditions, so don’t forget to enjoy them.
My next blog post will cover homesickness during the holidays, so keep an eye out.