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.
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.