Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends. Back home, lights adorn the streets and shops. Houses are nestled amidst the faze of cold winter days. Lights brighten their silhouettes, and there’s the gleam of a richly decorated Christmas tree inside. People travel near and far to be with their loved ones. Kitchens are brimming with meats, veggies, fruits, and sweets.
These are the little things you miss when you’re abroad for Christmas. Many people think about the presents, but it’s the reality that you’re not with your family at this time. For many, this can hit hard. It hits harder sometimes when you work on Christmas.
China isn’t one to go crazy for Christmas decorations. It’s not part of their culture despite more people celebrating each year. There may be some stores adorned with Christmas stickers, people may wear Christmas hats, and there might be the occasional Christmas tree outside of the mall. But, it’s nowhere near to the extent you’d see it back in the western countries.
When you live or work abroad, Christmas is what you make of it. It could be miserable, or it could be your own special twist on it. The past couple of years, a few friends and I have made sure it’s a special time. We had potlucks, presents, dinners, and drinking galore.
Since I am a teacher working abroad at a learning center, our school wants to show the students and parents the western cultures and celebrations. We are happy for this, because it gives us a chance to have fun at school and celebrate. This month, we had our Christmas Event. Students made reindeer, snowmen, read Christmas stories, had their faces painted, and made Christmas cards.
Students wrote letters to Santa and even had their pictures taken with him. We made it an enjoyable time not only for the kids but for us. It helps to spread the cheer and decorate the school to make it feel a bit like home.
To make things even better, our school even had their own Christmas party. We all had a secret Santa and had to hunt for our presents hidden throughout the school. We were all delighted and had a thrill trying to find the well hidden treasures. Afterwards, we played games, had fun taking photos, and went for a nice dinner. It was good to celebrate with everyone at work. Everyone was dressed up and gay with the Christmas spirit despite the rain and bitter cold outside.
Christmas wasn’t done yet…
On top of all of this, a few friends and I got together at my place to have our own personal Christmas. Everyone brought homemade food, presents, and their animals. The Christmas tree was brimming with presents. We went a bit overboard this year, but it made it feel like we were all home. The dogs played together and tried taking some of our newly opened presents. Appetizers and drinks adorned the table. We had homemade foods such as pot roast, chicken, Yorkshire pudding, peanut butter cookies, apple and pumpkin pies, and fresh salads. It was a joyful time and one we all sorely needed as each Christmas passes and were yet again away from home.
Yes, we were all a bit sad having to work on Christmas day, but that’s part of working in another country. Sometimes that country doesn’t observe your holidays. It’s all part of the experience. But, you can make the holidays bright and merry when you put your mind to it. We knew this, so we made sure to do our annual tradition of eating at the Kazaghstanian restaurant in our city. We gorged upon an assortment of dishes and relaxed with some hot tea.
Despite working on Christmas, we all had a wonderful holiday and made it as homey as we could. It also helped that we were all able to call family and friends back home for good conversations and to say, Merry Christmas.
Christmas is truly about the people you’re around and what you make of it. You don’t have to go all out, but you do need to do something. It could be simple as treating yourself to a good meal and a glass of wine at home. When the holidays hit, you have to do something or else the loneliness can get to you.
I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas! If you are living or teaching in another country, I want to know how you made your Christmas special.