So you are an expat coming from a country where Christmas is generally celebrated in the snow. Your kids are used to build snowman, igloos or go sledging or run on ice in deep, dark forests with tall fir trees covered with milky tops.
You hate the cold but still there is something mystical and cosy about it. The candles that illuminate the long nights and the short walks to enjoy that little bit of light during the day…
And suddenly, you face hot sun and tropical, humid air. Your bare feet are touching the warm soil of your new home. Maybe you see lots of plastic fir trees or palm trees with Christmas decoration. Electric candles where not light is needed as the days are warm and long… And although this might be very nice for a holiday but your children are complaining the whole day long: “This is no Christmas! We want to go home!”
Christmas might be one of the most sensible times for expat families as it is full of memories of what might be still considered “home”. This is particular difficult if you are about to celebrate it on the opposite side of the world where the climate and people are just so different. So how can you make it easier for your children to accept Christmas in the sun? I hope the following 5 tips can give you a hand.
Tip 1: Try to maintain your Christmas customs
It might be difficult to get a real fir tree in a tropical country if you are used to the natural version of Christmas. But try to stick as best possible to your family traditions. Prepare the turkey after the recipe of your great-grandmother you used to do every year. Decorate the tree with the tiny paper angel, your little one made in kindergarten years ago. Traditions are very important to children and sticking to them might help them not to feel too alienated in this new country.
Tip 2: Get familiar with local Christmas customs
Sticking to your own traditions as described in tip number 1 is crucial but you can’t have it all. Be realistic. Christmas IS GOING TO BE different. That’s why it can help (and can be also a lot of fun!) to mix your traditions with selected elements from your new home. Visit places where locals use to go during Christmas time. Do they meet up in a Karaoke box to sing Western Christmas songs (like in Japan)? Go with some local friends and make it fun. If you are a Christian, you could visit the local church and attend mass. Possibly it’s a whole new experience for your kids to attend the nativity scene in an African country. Are there new handicraft work techniques you can get your children fascinated about? Let them learn as much about the traditions in the new country and let them decide which ones to incorporate into your traditional way of Christmas. They will feel engaged and motivated.
Tip 3: Be connected to the world but in a moderate way
At times of Skype, Facebook and Co it has become so much easier for us to stay connected to the other part of the world. If your kids are a bit older, they definitely might have discovered this already for themselves! Allow them to be connected to their friends and the distant family members. But make sure they don’t spend too much time with it. Where the contact might help your children in one way, there is also the risk that they get too homesick by living more through the computer than within the real world. So make sure they also discover their new home (see tip 2).
Tip 4: Enjoy the advantages of summer!
Yes, it is all about Christmas. And yes, there should be some snow and cold weather for it to become real. But there you are, having sunny weather and a plain, sandy beach in front of your door. What’s so wrong about it?! Besides all this Christmas buzz just take your kids out and enjoy what others only have during their holidays! Go swimming, appreciate the sun, take pictures and (best of all) send them home and make those who stayed there jealous. Make your kids feel proud about their new home country.
Tip 5: Christmas is where your child’s family is
So, last but not least Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ and being together with your family, sharing love. Let your children feel this. Talk with them about the meaning of the Christmas night and why at the end all the commercial buzz about Christmas doesn’t matter as long as you have Jesus’ message in your heart. Let them know that you as a family stick together and love each other. Be there for your children and spend a lot of time with them in particular during this time. Listen to their thoughts. If you are not a Christian but anyway are celebrating Christmas, this is just as important.
Do you have other tips your want to share? Please let us know!