Mama’s away at Christmas

End of year traditions and festivities seem to awaken the dormant beast of homesickness in even the most settled of migrants, let alone the new arrivals. Whether it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, Chanukah or another end of year festival, the sense of distance from “home” and loved ones seems amplified.

carols on darling
Carols in sandals and Santa shorts…

Of course, others may raise a silent cheer that they can escape the stress, obligations or family entanglements the “festive” season can bring. Nevertheless, in the expat mothers’ Facebook groups and on twitter, I’ve seen numerous posts expressing deep sadness about not being able to continue family traditions, about being far from loved ones and overall a sense of it just not feeling “right” – especially for us northern hemisphere types contemplating the festive season in sandals rather than snow boots.

Mums online talk about “putting a brave face on” for the kids, trying to find ways of creating new rituals for them, or incorporating some of their favourite elements from their home traditions.

For me, those feelings are more muted, mostly because I actually spent many happy Christmases in Australia as a child, visiting my mum’s family. So Christmas on the beach brings back as many childhood memories as a Christmas walk by the River Thames. And with parents arriving next week, and my father in law in January, we won’t be yearning for family either.

Having said that, here are a few things that appear completely weird to me about Christmas as a midsummer festival:

  1. Mulled wine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it here and for good reason. Even the thought of drinking hot wine brings me out in a sweat! The smell of cloves and cinnamon conjures up a sensation of cosy kitchens, not breezy, sun-drenched verandahs.
  2. Father Christmas in fur-lined clothes and a massive beard.
    santa at the fish markets
    Even elves have to buy their Christmas prawns somewhere…

    Spare a thought for the poor guys dressing up to bring sweaty joy to kids’ parties everywhere. At least the shopping centre Santas get air-con.

  3. References to snow. Snowy carols, snowflake decorations, inflatable snowmen. It all just makes me want to break out into Olaf’s “In Summer” song from Frozen.
  4. Hot turkey dinners. Who wants to have the oven on all day in 30+ degree heat? Lots of people do opt for seafood and salads but the roast lunch persists. Personally, I’d be afraid of sinking during my afternoon ocean dip if I ate all that, not to mention Christmas pud.

How about you? Does the “festive” season awaken the dormant homesickness in you? What do you miss about Christmas (or Chanukah, or Thanksgiving…) at home? What do you embrace about the celebrations where you are? Have you incorporated any of your home traditions? 

As well as being a mother away from home at Christmas, I am researching migrant mothers and online communities for my PhD. Find out more at the Mamas Away Facebook page and take my survey.

If you’re in Australia, I’ll be interviewing mothers in 2016, so if you’re interested, let me know (my email address is at the end of the survey). I’m particularly looking for mothers who have set up or who run online groups for migrant/expat mothers in their local area, and also mothers who use online groups and networks. Don’t be shy; get in touch!

Seychelles Mama



7 thoughts on “Mama’s away at Christmas

  1. Great post Leah, never really stop feeling excited for Christmas just because of the heat, although I totally agree about the weirdness of Christmas songs when it’s very hot!!!
    We still indulge in a full on turkey dinner, I love it, mulled wine too!! I think if we’d brought our kids from the uk to here we might struggle more but it’s all our little guys have known so it doesn’t impact them!
    Thanks for linking up for myexpatfamily lovely to have you join in!


  2. I just can’t get my head round Christmas being in summer! At least here in Mexico we are in winter, although it may not be all that cold most of the time, it does feel a bit colder than the rest of the year! This year, though, we’re going the beach for Christmas so that will be pretty strange. #MyExpatFamily


  3. Ha you and I have the opposite problem. I’m so used to being in Australia for Christmas so being in a cold environment feels very strange. This year I even had mulled wine for the first time. It certainly takes on a whole new feel. Yes it’s always a tough time isn’t it being away from family. We were lucky to have my mum & dad in China last year….this year we hightailed it to Malaysia’s warm beaches and relaxed, which for me felt kind of normal. Not so much though for my British husband. 😉


    1. It actually rained quite a lot before Christmas so one day after taking the boys out splashing in puddles I came back and made mulled wine, heated a mince pie, and felt quite at home. And we still got to have a sunny Christmas day at the beach, so best of both worlds 🙂


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