My husband & I just spent our fifth Christmas away from our families; the first one we’ve spent in France. I know that a lot of people really struggle with being away for Christmas, and if you have solid traditions back home it can be a wrench when you know exactly what your family members will be up to and when, and you’re not there to be a part of it.
I’ve always enjoyed these Christmases away, but I agree that it can feel a little off, or not quite festive. I say: embrace the differences - you’re never going to recreate home exactly, so focus on what you are doing.
We spent one Christmas in New Zealand where we barbecued seafood in the sunshine. One year we were in Peru for Christmas and ate at an ‘English pub’ that did their best to recreate a traditional meal, but if i recall correctly it was an American Thanksgiving meal - same same, but different (everything was mashed). One particularly messy Christmas in Scotland involved us eating pot noodles in the early hours of Christmas day. Maybe that’s one not to be recreated.
Having different experiences can help build your own traditions - I don’t know if my husband & I would have our annual Baileys in bed on Christmas morning if we hadn’t giddily bought a bottle that first Christmas abroad, excited for something familiar that would anchor us to the people back home. (Yes, in our families, this anchor is alcohol).
Speaking to a friend who also lived abroad, I remember her saying she found going home a little odd. It was somehow awkward to slot herself back into friendship groups and family dynamics after being away. People often talk a bit pompously of returning to their home towns and nothing has changed, but sometimes things do change, and situations evolve - ever so slowly while you weren’t there. People aren’t always interested in your adventures, and that’s okay. People have their own shit going on. I’ve always noticed this balance - how much do people care about what you’ve been up to, and how much is politeness? Is it rude to waffle on or should you just say “Oh nothing much new, you?” Does anyone else ever think about this or is it just more proof that I overthink every interaction?
But now Christmas is over, and it’s all about the faux positivity of the New Year. I usually cringe at resolutions but this year I’m feeling it. Perhaps it's because 2016 has been such a weird year. Personally, a lot has happened (all good). Globally... woah. We won't go there.
2017 is shiny and new and I'm looking forward to what she brings.