Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Expat Christmas

The Brits don't celebrate Thanksgiving (obviously). 
But, they do get Boxing Day so it all evens out. 

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas and 
means an extra day off to relax in your PJ's and eat too much.

We spent four days on the South coast of England with TE's parents. 
We loaded the car with presents, suitcases and food.  Then made the quick trip to Folkestone. 

It was a great few days with TE and his family sharing all of their holiday traditions with me.
Christmas specials, music, puzzles and food!

So much food!   We decorated cupcakes, which they call Fairy Cakes in the UK.

On Christmas Eve we had a little party with munchies (including queso!) and cocktails.

No matter how much I begged, we didn't open any presents until Christmas morning.   

We all made out like bandits.  I love my new satchel and wool blanket.

We had Christmas dinner early afternoon. 
It was a traditional turkey dinner complete with stuffing, potatoes and cranberry sauce.
My mother-in-law put on a fantastic spread! 

We put on Top of the Pops and popped open our crackers. 
We read out the riddles and the paper crowns remained on for the rest of the day. 
At 3pm it was time for the Queen's Christmas Message.  

It was four days of relaxing around the fire and enjoying each others company.
I'm so thankful to have such a wonderful English family that love me.

But, can I tell you a little secret?   I’m kind of glad the holidays are over. 
It was my first Christmas as an expat.  And in all honesty, it was tough. 

I really struggled with finding balance between embracing the new and craving the familiar.
And, I really just missed my daughter and the rest of my family so much.

So, having recently been through it, here are a few pointers
if you ever find yourself spending the holidays away from home. 

1.     Relax and don’t be too hard on yourself.  Holidays are stressful in the best of times.  Holidays thousands of miles from home, will certainly be a challenge.   And spending a Christmas away from your child is almost unbearable.  Allow yourself to feel those feelings and find positive ways to deal with them. 

2.     Adapt your traditions to fit your new situation and mood.  We purchased a massive, fragrant tree.   But, I just couldn’t bring myself to decorate it.  I hung all of our ornaments from the past year happily.  But each box of older ornaments that I brought out just made me sad.  So, I just put on a few of them.  It still looks pretty.  And watching Love Actually made me cry like a baby.  The scenes from Heathrow Arrivals?  Like a baby!  My suggestion, skip it.  Find a new Christmas movie to had to your annual rotation. 

3.     Don’t spend so much time searching for the familiar that you don’t embrace the new.  I think that’s the hardest part about being away from home.  I just wanted the familiar;  familiar food, movies, music, and people.  I went to a candlelit Carol Service and left after two songs.  Here I was in this gorgeous, old church listening to a children’s choir.  I didn’t recognize the songs and I didn’t want mince pies and tea.  I wanted punch and cookies.  I was trying so hard to find the familiar that I missed out on a wonderful experience. 

4.     Be open about how you are feeling and ask for a little help.  My husband was thrilled to be home for Christmas.  And you can imagine how happy his parents were to have him home.  He was getting all of the familiar things that he has been missing for years.  He’s been in my shoes for years and knew what I was going through.  He even found me a traditional US Country Ham to go with the traditional UK turkey. When I came downstairs on Christmas morning, his mom met me at the bottom of the stairs with the biggest hug and it felt so good.  I'm so grateful that I had them all surrounding me for Christmas. 

5.     Lastly, I suggest that you embrace the fabulous treat that is the quirky UK Christmas Number One.   You haven’t really experienced Christmas until you’ve heard the following festive ear wig.

Do you have any tips for making the best of the Holidays away from home?



  1. Selena, I love reading your blogs on your website! I don't know if you remember me or not but I was close friends with your mom years, I'm talking years ago! Keep sending the tidbits as you have been doing. Very, very interesting and enjoyable to read. I can almost visualize being there as you tell about your adventures. Blessings for the new year!!

  2. Selena... Thank you for this. I know I won't be able to make it home every Christmas once I'm living there as an expat and you reminded me of some of the things my children going with me and the ones staying here might face. You are so blessed to have wonderful in laws, but I know you know that already!

  3. Hugs help with a lot don't they, good for the Mr's Mum!

    In some ways the UK and the USA seem so similar, yet in so many ways they are utterly different, right down to the Mum/Mom or Wally/Waldo things. Here's hoping you enjoy the way we celebrate New Year, and that 2013 is good to you and yours x

  4. I hope you have a very peaceful and prosperous 2013! Love, Tammy xx

  5. Stumbled upon your blog and I am laughing...Im an American who met an Englishman 17 years ago and life has never been the same! I too have worn the paper hat on many a Christmas. Will now be a follower of your blog.

  6. I know it has to be so hard without your daughter! I could not even imagine. But on the other hand sounds like you have an understanding husband in TE and wonderful in-laws.
    The puzzle would resonate with me...Rod's mom always has a puzzle to do when I visit. I love that!
    I hope that you have a wonderful New Year... and that you get lots of visits from your girl this year. Has she ever thought of moving to London...maybe she would find a TE of her very own? ;-)
    Love you!!

  7. This is great advice, although I've experienced it for a few years now on both sides, as my husband and I have spent Christmases in the USA and UK equally now.

    This was my first US Christmas as a US resident proper, and there were a few British things that our US family were happy to incorporate, but I didn't want to BECAUSE they were familiar and would make me miss everything else (British Christmas TV, paper hats, sausages wrapped in bacon). I did play Slade a few times though. I reckon you just have to find your own groove with transatlantic holidays - next year I'll be totally fine with cookies AND mince pies!

  8. I love Christmas not just for the gifts but for how nice everyone is to everyone else.



Thanks for commenting. I love to hear from you!