Thursday, December 12, 2013

Your Traditions are Mine

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This seems to have become Deep Thoughts About Christmas Week on the blog, first with my Unnecessary Holiday Wishlist on Monday and then with some self-imposed stress over appropriating Christmas traditions as a Jew in an interfaith marriage and now with this post on What Christmas Means To Me.  Sorry about that.  You can blame Emily, okay?  She's hosting a link up at Sparrow in the Treetop about it today, but I'm also using this month's Expat Q&A with Belinda and Bailie to guide my thoughts:

Has your idea of the holiday season changed since becoming an expat?
How do you build new holiday traditions, while keeping ones that remind you of "home"?

The answer to both those questions - as well as my response to Emily's prompt - revolves around Jon.  As you're probably sick of hearing by now, I was raised as a practicing Jew but participated in the Anglican liturgy, so I didn't celebrate the holiday as an event that carried meaning for my faith although I wholeheartedly participated in Christmas services as a chorister.  I really only started engaging with Christmas on a personal level when Jon and I got serious and I spent my first Christmas with his family.

Therefore, my idea of Christmas and, in fact, my understanding of the meaning of Christmas completely changed when I became an expat.  Whereas before Christmas had always been something I enjoyed spiritually in an abstract way, moving to London and being with Jon introduced me to the more tangible communal aspect of the holiday.  Jon's family welcomed me into their home and their traditions with open arms; I joined in singing carols by the fire on Christmas Eve, I woke up on Christmas morning to a stocking that Santa had left outside the door as I slept, and I crossed arms with a dozen people who would become my in-laws to pull crackers at Christmas lunch.  When I became an expat, the concept of Christmas was made concrete through Jon's family and his traditions.  Christmas to me means being with Jon's family - my family now, too - and sharing in the memories they've been making for years and will continue making for years to come.

So I suppose I'm lucky in that I don't have to build new Christmas traditions that might supplant those from "home."  My parents and Jon's also consider themselves lucky, I think, because they don't have to fight over where we spend our holidays: my family gets dibs on us for Thanksgiving as American Jews and his family claims us for Christmas as English Christians!  It all works out well - just as you predicted it would in your comments from yesterday.  Thanks, dear readers, for knocking a little sense into me.

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  1. In many ways you really are so lucky to have great but separate families for backing these wonderful holiday traditions for you and now you and Jon can create your own niches in each.

  2. I think this is such a fascinating part of holidays that stem from religious beliefs. It's pretty cool that were able to melt the two together where we live. Thanks for linking up.

  3. I'm catching up on blog posts from the week and I love hearing about how other people celebrate and what it means to them. In some weird way, I feel like it's almost easier for couples whose families don't live near each other. Separating the holidays between families just makes sense. For us, we have to do each holiday with both of our families since they live only an hour and a half away. It's nice to see them both, but also a little difficult since we spend a chunk of our day driving :(

  4. we ARE lucky - thank you for reminding me :)

  5. haha I'm glad at least one person didn't get bored! I just have ALL THE COMPLICATED THOUGHTS on this and it helps to write them out, you know?

  6. oh I can totally see that! we don't even have the option of sharing holidays - unless Jon's fam comes to the US for Thanksgiving and that plan is in the works! - so we don't have to split ourselves. Maybe one year both of yours will come to you?

  7. I think it is so beautiful that you both can mend your religions during this special time. What a unique Christmas experience!

  8. What a great way to share the festivities of thanksgiving and Christmas. It really sounds like you have the best of both worlds :-) Christmas with your hubbys family sounds pretty great , I wouldn't mind getting a stocking from Santa! ;-)


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