Sharing Christmas traditions with expat friends

Sharing Christmas traditions with expat friends

I opted to decorate cookies instead of a gingerbread house. It’s much less work!

Although holidays are all about tradition, living abroad forced our family to shake things up a little: having chicken for Christmas dinner because we couldn’t fit a turkey in our tiny oven, for example, or leaving the girls’ stockings under the tree because our home didn’t have a fireplace. Once I got over the initial disappointment of abandoning certain customs, I kind of liked the idea of injecting something new into the mix. As long as the core celebrations were recognizable, it was refreshing to introduce a new element here and there.

Even though we’re back home in Canada now, our Christmas traditions are still evolving. This is mostly thanks to the K-girls, a group of women I met in the English Conversation Class I used to lead at a local settlement agency. All three had recently arrived from Korea, and over many coffee mornings these past couple of years, our friendship has grown.

Last week the K-girls (now numbering five) came to my house for a traditional Christmas dinner. They had never eaten turkey, stuffing, or cranberry sauce before. It was a huge hit. We listened to Bing Crosby, wore the silly paper hats that came in the Christmas crackers, had some wine, ate too much, laughed a lot, and exchanged gifts. It was just like my family Christmas dinner, except for the mini grammar lesson on causative verbs that broke out during dessert.

Sharing Christmas traditions with expat friends

The gingerbread decorating party.

I recently wrote about my family’s Christmas tradition of decorating gingerbread houses. This was something I’d always done with my girls when they were small, although the practice languished during the expat years. Last year it was resuscitated as a way to introduce the K-girls to Canadian Christmas customs. It was such a success that yesterday, Younger Daughter and I hosted our second annual gingerbread decorating event. We hope it will become another cherished Christmas tradition, not just in our home, but also in the homes of our Korean friends.

I’ll be spending the rest of this week with my family and friends as we count down to the most joyous day of the year. To those of you who celebrate Christmas: enjoy! And to those who are celebrating it far from home this year, may your modified Christmas bring you peace and happiness… and perhaps start a new tradition that will forever remind you of your expat adventures.

Finished gingerbread house

Merry Christmas!


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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3 Responses to Sharing Christmas traditions with expat friends

  1. naomi says:

    love it! i’m all about creating new memories and traditions with our adult friends during the holidays and not just the little ones!

  2. Your ginger bread house is fabulous! I never managed to get the hang of it.

    You don’t really know what your own traditions mean until you’re in a foreign place and have to make adjustments or give them up altogether. It is strange to celebrate Christmas in a tropical country, and you can’t find a real tree and the plastic ones cost a fortune and are ugly. Being Dutch, married to an American, I eventually had to give up Sinterklaas, which is a December 5 gift-giving holiday. We did it once or twice abroad when we had a Dutch expat community putting it on, so our children had a chance to experience it a couple of times, but that was it. It is not now part of our traditions, and I miss it because it is a lot of fun.

    But, so it goes in expat life. You can start new traditons, and learn about others in your various foreign environments, and that is a good thing too.

    Wishing you a happy, healthy and fun 2011

    • Maria says:

      Such a shame you had to give up Sinterklaas, but you’re right — that’s how it goes. The good thing is that as an expat you acquire other traditions. What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabout (as my Irish mother always says. It took us Canadian kids years to figure out what a “roundabout” was!)

      And thanks for noticing the brilliance of the gingerbread house! I wish I could take credit, but my younger daughter is the artist behind it. My job is to wipe up spills, fetch drinks, keep the Christmas music playing, and correct English 🙂

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