Celebrating Christmas with CCKs

IMG_20181205_215554_058It is the night before St. Nikolaus Tag, which my husband celebrated as a young German boy growing up in Taiwan. Even though I didn’t grow up celebrating like this we have made this part of our Christmas tradition with our own kids. Tonight the girls cleaned their shoes and in the morning they will find some chocolate and treats inside.

Celebrating the holidays with family from different cultures is interesting. I was allowed to write “Holidays for Cross-Cultural Kids” for Multicultural Kid Blogs. If you’d like to read more about what a CCK is or other ideas on this topic please read more here.

 

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An Expat’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,A&P, COFFEE, SANTA CLAUS

I’m sure you are one busy man this time of year. I can’t imagine, as I only have three kids, not millions to check on. I don’t want to take up too much of your precious time, as I know you have quite a few of these letters to read. So, here it goes:

This year I’d like…

 

1. Language – the ability to communicate clearly with the locals around me. I know I could study more, but if you could just give me the language, then I would be able to understand the man on the phone telling me that a package has arrived for us and I need to get it soon. I’d also like to be able to read in this new language. It would be so helpful with the public notices in our elevator, especially today when the water went off during my shower. That would have been very helpful.

2. Lifetime of free airline ticketsOkay this maybe steep, but hey I’ve been REALLY good this year. I love to travel, but it just costs so much money to go places, especially with a family of five. So, maybe you could put at least a few years worth of free tickets in my stocking?

3. Cooking classes – A personal tutor to teach me how to make all the wonderful food that I have eaten in the various places that I have called home. It is difficult to find the exact same food after we move on to the next destination. I’d even settle for a recipe book, but they have to be authentic recipes. Please don’t send me the recipes that are westernized.

4. Home – Yes, this maybe the most difficult as we are not really sure where home is. To spend the holidays with the entire extended family each year would be just a dream come true. For us it’s difficult because my family and my in-laws live on different continents. You are creative, so I’m sure you will come up with a grand way for us to be able to celebrate with both families this year. (If it doesn’t workout, then I’ll settle for a GREAT connection on Skype.)

Thank you so much in advance. And in case you didn’t know, we no longer live where we did last year. In fact, we don’t even live in the same country. So, be sure to pay attention to the return address. Don’t worry though, I smuggled in my suitcase the special ingredients so I can make your favorite cookies.

Your Biggest and Most-Well Behaved Fan,

The Expat

Your Turn: I had fun thinking about what an expat might ask for. Now if you could ask Santa for anything, what would you ask for? Share in the comments below.

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*Photo Credit: Flickr, The Commons

 

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Holiday Cheers

Although living overseas can bring some holiday blues, it can be blessed with some good cheer as well.

Here are some of my blessings this year:

1. Skype: We were able to skype with most of my family just this past weekend. I have 4 siblings and they are all married with kids and some with grandkids even , so there are a lot of people to visit with. Skype wasn’t so nice to us, as we had trouble…but considering that we were able to see each other briefly over miles and miles of ocean, I really can’t complain. Something that was NOT available when I first moved overseas.

2. Boxes like this! LOVE my European chocolate and candy…do I really have to share it with my kids and husband? 

3. Putting up the Christmas tree and looking at all the ornaments like this and this.

4. Keeping old traditions and making new traditions.

My kids are all home now for vacation. They are counting down the days on an hourly basis. I love my time with them watching Christmas movies, sipping hot chocolate, and watching Christmas tree lights.

I pray that your Christmas holiday is one full of joy, peace and good health.

Merry Christmas!

Your turn: What has brought you cheer during this Christmas season? Please share in the comments below!

Holiday Blues

Sad snowman on Commonwealth Ave.

photo by flickr

I’m beginning to see Facebook statuses that read:

“He’s here! He’s here! Let the fun begin!”  or

“I’m at — airport and only a few more hours left to be home!”

I’m excited for my friends and their children that get to be with them for the holidays, but it made me begin to wonder about the ones that won’t get to see their kids this year. Living overseas can be difficult during the holiday times, especially if your children are no longer living with you and can’t come “home” for Christmas. You worry about where they might go, how they are going to get there, among all the other worries you already have about them.

Many go to visit grandparents or aunts and uncles.

What if your child is not from the country where they now residing and can’t come “home” for the holidays? Where will they go? What will they do?

I’ve thought about this and have watched Facebook and listened to moms here that are in this scenario. Here is what I’m “seeing”:

1. They are going to friend’s houses for the holidays. Fellow TCKs they know from high school whose parents have moved back.

2. Hanging out with other international students during the holidays.

3. Hanging out with college roomate and family or new friends they have made.

If you’ve had children that couldn’t come “home” for the holidays, what did they do? How did you cope? Please share in the comments below.

Christmas Gifts for the Grandparents

Christmas presents under the tree

photo by flickr

Buying presents is something I like doing. Even though I live overseas, I like coming up with ideas for my nieces and nephews. Sometimes this is done online, but most of the time it is at the local market.

What I do find hard is buying for the grandparents. My husband’s parents lived here and have every little trinket and painting that they have to offer in this Asian country. My mother doesn’t need another trinket, table covering, wall hanging, etc. So, a few years back I began to think about this dilemma. What do you buy them? Do I just add money to the gift fund that all my sibs are doing and let them buy the gift for us? Do I try to find a new book that they haven’t read?

A light went on. The one thing they don’t have is seeing my kids on a regular basis. I decided to make something with them as the focus. So, here are just a few gift ideas that I have given in the past.

Note: I’m not mentioning this year’s idea because they might read this. But, I’ll post a picture of it AFTER Christmas.

1. Home DVDs of the kids.

2. Calendars with the kids’ pictures for each month. I’ve used Shutterfly, which has been great because they mail all over the world.

3.  Album of specifically of our time with them that previous summer/winter. This I also did with Shutterfly.

4. I’ve had the kids trace their hands to make various craft projects. This was a visual for them to see how big they really were getting. I’ve made Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths. Pinterest is a good resource for finding ideas of this sort.

I have this year’s gift almost completed, which is a good thing since I’m about out of time to get it there before Christmas Day!

What are some gift ideas that you have for the grandparents? Any favorite that they really liked the best? Please share in the comments below.

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Christmas Traditions Broken

I’m sure you have certain traditions in your family that you just do at certain times of the year. Our family is no different. Christmas has become a time of traditions for our family.

Here is a small sampling of our traditions:

  1.  Make Christmas cookies
  2. Put up the Christmas tree and stockings the weekend of American Thanksgiving.
  3. Drink hot chocolate with straws while enjoying the lights of the Christmas tree.
  4. St. Nicholas Day..kids clean their shoes and we put fruit and candy in them.
  5. Open presents from our German family members on Christmas Eve.
  6. Open presents from our American family members on Christmas Day.

The kids pretty much remember them, so we have kept them. Except for this year…

  1. We didn’t get our tree up until mid-week after Thanksgiving.
  2. We forgot St. Nicholas Day! That morning we told the kids that we’d do it “tomorrow.” Well, that didn’t happen either (and probably will not happen this year).
  3. Haven’t made ANY Christmas cookies, yet.

I think about beating myself up with all that I’ve NOT gotten done, but then I think about what we are doing and what we are going to do. And more importantly, what Christmas is all about in the first place.

  1. We started reading from the Jesse Tree Advent devotional. Something I have really enjoyed. I hope to sew together this tree and ornaments to go along with our readings for next year. A new tradition in the making…
  2. We are going to make cookies together this weekend and during the first week of vacation. There is still time.
  3. Christmas Eve will be shared with some dear friends of ours. We will have our traditional Christmas Eve meal…brauts, baked potato salad, red cabbage, and Christmas cookies!
  4.  Christmas Day will come and we’ll hear the wrapping paper rip, the shrills of delight from the girls, and watch our three little blessings enjoy being blessed.

I may not have accomplished all that I have wanted to this year in regards to traditions, but I’m enjoying the simplicity of things because of it. Maybe that was how it was intended to be in the first place.
Simple.
Simply a Babe born.                                                                                                         Simply laid in a manager.

Simple.
I like that.

What are your family traditions during the holiday season? Have you dropped some of those traditions or started new ones? Please share below.

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An Expat’s Christmas Tree

I love Christmas. I love listening to all the carols new and old. I love the smells of cinnamon, ginger, and all things Christmas-y.

I love the laughter and squeals from my girls as my husband begins to assemble the tree.

I love the excitement as I open up the black luggage tote full of ornaments. Ornaments that ring out our family’s history. Like these:

Our first Christmas together.

The Christmas we spent in Austria.

The Christmas in Germany.

Our last Christmas in China.

Our Christmas in the US.

This is a tradition that my husband and I started our first year. We make sure that we have a new Christmas ornament for each year.

Each has it’s own story to tell and we talk about our time in that place or the events of that year. I love this because we pass down stories to our kids. Some stories portray them as the main characters. Other stories they are not part of, but each year we remember. It’s good to remember. Remember the fun times, the hard times, the joyful times, the times of grief.

It’s during these times of remembering that I’m reminded to be thankful. Thankful for all the good friends I’ve met. Thankful for all the beautiful places I’ve been to. Thankful for the family I’ve been able to visit during the Christmas seasons of past. And to be thankful for what this season means to me and my family.

That Love came down as a Babe.

Do you have a special ornament that tells a story from a Christmas somewhere? Please share in the comments below.

*Sorry that some of the pictures wouldn’t flip correctly. I tried, but it just wouldn’t let me. Ugh!