All of us spend the holidays in different ways. Some of us have family traditions involving meals, gift giving or religious ceremonies. For others, the holiday break means traveling to be with family or for a getaway vacation. For others, the holidays fall short of “what they’re supposed to be” — for one reason or another.
How will you be spending the holiday break?
On the Expatriate Life blog, Jan Benzel writes about what it’s like to be away from home for the holidays for three years in a row:
The day I love most – Christmas! — is the day I’m most dreading this year. Three years into an assignment abroad, I’ll be spending my third Christmas away from home. I’ll work on Christmas Day; there won’t be much to do. I’ll have dinner with friends who are also far from their families.
In thrall to the chance to live overseas for the first time I had somehow missed the fine print: that I’d be working throughout the holidays each year. Or perhaps three years ago, Christmas at home didn’t feel as urgent as it does now.
On Dec. 25, technology willing, I’ll Skype with my daughters. They’re grown up enough that they no longer expect the wonder world under the tree, but like me, not grown up enough not to miss the cooking, the wrapping, the Christmas music. They’ll have that this year with their father in New York. I’ll call my mother, and my siblings. I’ll miss my own father; he died in March.
Students: Tell us …
- How will you spend the holiday break?
- What will you be doing? Cooking? Reading? Playing video games? Traveling?
- Just like Ms. Benzel, many of us don’t get to spend the holidays exactly the way we want to. Is there somewhere you would rather be? Is there someone you would like to spend the holidays with, but can’t?
- Ms. Benzel is an expat, which means she is an American living and working abroad. She would rather be home with her family for the holidays, but instead she has to spend Christmas in Paris. Many of us would love to spend the holidays in Paris, or travel somewhere else exciting, but instead we’ll be home as usual. If you could travel anywhere over the holiday break, where would you like to travel?
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.
Christmas is a time to slow down, to take a deep breath, to look at snowflakes dancing outside the window and at flames of votive candles on the decorated mantelpiece… Well, at least it is supposed to be like that. Last year, however, I was worried we’d have to spend Christmas not by a Christmas tree and a blazing hearth, but among bare walls and surrounded by cardboard boxes. That’s all because we were moving to another town.
There was nothing to worry about, however. My mom’s old friend lives there, and she helped greatly in arranging matters. She was kind to inspect the apartment offers found on the Net. Her husband, who is a civil engineer, commented then on all the pros and cons in each case, so that we could make up our minds more easily. He also recommended a reliable van line – they delivered all the breakables we decided to transport safely. Not to pay too much for transportation, we thought it wiser to buy some of the furniture and major appliances when already at the new place.
And that’s where Christmas shopping campaigns (which I usually find too hectic to my taste) came in handy. Due to numerous discount offers, bonuses and other perks, such as free delivery, we managed to furnish our new home with nicest things without it costing us an arm and a leg. Of course, touring the shops took us not one day but ten, but every minute spent was definitely worth it. I was lucky to participate in it all – thus I had the better part of December off school (well, I just had to work harder for a while at my former school).
After we bought the necessary furniture and home appliances, Mom and Dad got busy with some minor repairs and redecoration. As for Christmas ornaments, they delegated this task wholly to me. Oh, how glad I was! I can say I love festive preparations not less than the celebration itself, so I set about the task with all my heart.
For inspiration, I went window-gazing every day; those walks were magical in and of themselves thanks to light snowfalls that lasted a week. The streets were beautiful; I also visited malls. I sauntered past shop windows, took snapshots of designs I liked, and then discussed them with Mom and Dad. We brainstormed the best suggestions, and next I went to collect supplies for the DIY-able things and buy some ready-made ornaments. After that, with time free from school at my disposal, I devoted myself to creativity. It was bliss – if I’d had to attend classes, like it was every December before, I wouldn’t have even half the opportunity to indulge in all the arts and crafts that I love. I made fabric accessories, felted and papier-mâché ornaments, bunting, table decoration, greeting cards and gift wrapping.
Apart from that, I gave a hand in redecoration, too. While Mom was busy cooking, Dad and I went on pasting new wallpapers, hanging curtains and light fixtures. After a few more days of work, we made another tour to stock on groceries (which was a bargain, too due to all the special offers); then all that was left was arranging the furniture, buying a Christmas tree, decorating the place and preparing dinner.
On December, 25 we invited Mom’s friends over to our place. We presented them with a set of designer ceramic vases for their beautiful home, and they gave us a fondue pot, some fine Belgian chocolate and a pound of delicious strawberries which we relished as well as our long chat that wonderful Christmas night.