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.
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:
- 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.
- Father Christmas in fur-lined clothes and a massive beard.
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.
- 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.
- 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?
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!