I grew up in Denmark, where winters are cold and wet … and Christmas is celebrated indoors with a real tree, rich and fat food, and the big event takes place on the 24th of December. When we moved abroad, I of course knew that local traditions were different, but was nonetheless sure that we could make Christmas our own way, even away from home! Or?
Our first Christmas abroad was in Chile. But on a mid-summer day with temperatures around 30°C and bright sunshine, it’s more than hard to get in the right Christmas mood – no matter how many plastic trees and heavily sweating Santas you see. More importantly, Danish Christmas traditions (the rich & heavy food) are not really suited for such weather. Plus, many ingredients are next to impossible to find. Combined, these factors called for impromptu modifications of our Christmas traditions.
When the season is not quite “right”
Granted, it’s a completely arbitrary convention, but if you grew up in the Northern hemisphere, then Christmas is and will always be associated with winter. And expats will have to face not only the “wrong” weather, but also the difficulties of getting the ingredients needed to make it their own Christmas – the way it’s supposed to be. In the end, we developed our own traditions for celebrating Christmas abroad, modifying some, removing others, and incorporating brand new ones, both from local customs and from expat friends in our new community.
Some things won’t change: We’ve had duck every year, but in a variety of non-traditional ways. When celebrating Christmas abroad, you gotta be flexible.
Have you had a hard time making your Christmas “just right” as an expat? How did you manage, and how did you modify your traditions? We’d love to hear your comments below!