There are many shoulds that are wrapped around the Christmas holidays like glitzy, cheap wrapping paper. Most of us have grown up with these cultural expectations for what the Christmas holidays “should” consist of, and we struggle to put together the magical ingredients for the “perfect” Christmas holidays. Each family and each culture has its own traditions, own recipes, etc., for achieving this goal. These range from the cute and jolly to the downright eccentric.
Striving for a perfect Christmas experience is often at the root of all of our Christmas stress. As expats, we place extra pressure on ourselves at this time of year and then we wonder why we are not Merry!
So here is the expats’ survival guide to Christmas, in which we go in search of a lot more merriment!
1. “Christmas is only Christmas with family and friends.” Sweetheart, if you believe this thought, your Christmas is going to be a painful one. Christmas in your adopted country is not going to be a cardboard cut-out of the Christmases of old. Look for what you have now, not for the ghost of Christmases past. You have a family here; it just is a little smaller than what you have been used to. You have friends here; they just haven’t been in your life for as long. When you have less, it is time to embrace what you do have: don’t look over your shoulder to try to see what you are missing. Live in the moment.
2. Get with the madness. Dive right into whatever weird and wonderful events are happening. Town invaded by hundreds of Santas on horseback? Marvellous! Get out there and be part of the crazy. Glühwein is a helpful addition, of course….
3. Make your own traditions. Those of you who have been reading this column for a while (big wave and hug) know that I am a big fan of making your own traditions that fit with where you are. When I was little we spent a few Christmases on military ships (yes, really), so my parents had to get really inventive with the Santa stories. It worked (but the logistics of it must have been challenging!) and those holiday celebrations were very memorable.
4. Know when to stop. With limited resources, you do what you can and then you stop. Sure, if you want, try to source what you desire for Christmas from within your country and via the gods of Amazon, but please, know when to stop. Embrace the “good enough” attitude, as you are never going to achieve “perfect”…and let’s face it: was it really ever “perfect” back home?
5. Would you please relax? Rushing around like a mad blue-arse fly (with a little Santa hat on!) does not “Merry” make. Would you just slow down? A little? Happiness comes from appreciating what is happening in the moment, rather than pushing your happiness to a particular date (25th December, for example). Slow down. You will still get there (time tends to see to that), and it would be better not to be in such an exhausted heap on the day. When you eat, just eat and appreciate it. When you drink, just drink and soak up the sensation. Then you will discover that you can, indeed, be Merry.
By Tammy Furey
Tammy is a coach, educator, writer and blogger who lives in St. Gallen, Switzerland with her husband and daughter whilst attempting (badly) to speak German and fold her paper recycling in the correct manner. Visit her at www.fureycoaching.com
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura has studied Journalism and Advertising, and has been working as a journalist and an illustrator. She has been illustrating for magazines, websites, charity and diverse campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and seven-year-old daughter.