We’ve celebrated countless Thanksgiving and Christmas far from our family for over a decade now.
Over those years, many holidays were happily celebrated with only myself and my husband or us and our small children.
But I, also, longed to be celebrating with my family and a stuffed house many of those years.
As a child, I was a bit disappointed by Thanksgiving. Thinking back I can’t recall a lot of Thanksgiving dinners. Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of fond memories of sharing meals with my family but Thanksgiving in particular just doesn’t stand out. It’s bit sad to admit. I’m sure there was nothing wrong with Thanksgiving dinner we celebrated together.
Maybe it was because we had many, many dinners together with my grandparents and so many of those as a child seemed like a feast to me.
I do remember one year spending hours (or so it seemed) creating pilgrim and native american costumes out of paper bags to wear to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents house. I may have even made additional costumes for my family to wear, although this piece is a little fuzzy to me now. And I remember my disappointment to learn that it was only my family and my grandparents celebrating Thanksgiving together. No one else would be wearing the costumes I spent hours making and the fun I was sure wearing them would entail.
In all likelihood, I spent many wonderfully fun and festive Thanksgiving’s together with my family.
Regardless of how I remember (or don’t remember) my Thanksgiving celebrations as a child, I have had over a decade of holidays celebrated far from family. And those I do remember.
I remember the first Christmas celebrated somewhere other than my grandmother’s home, I remember the first Thanksgiving I fed my own little girl from the meal we had created, I remember filling my kids Christmas stockings for the first time and I remember the hundreds of phone calls with loud, happy family members miles away wishing us a happy holiday and thinking of how much I would have liked to be by their sides.
And I remember that I am thankful for exactly where I am. Thankful for all the wonderful memories that my husband & I have created for ourselves and our children. Far from family.
My tips for Celebrating the holiday season far from family.
Actually, make the time to call and don’t wait for the perfect time. Differences in time zones can always make calling challenging. I am guilty of allowing much too much time to go by between phone calls because I try to “time” my phone call just right.
Set a standard phone call date and stick to it. Some weeks the phone call will be short but others will evolve into great conversations.
My family has used various methods and apps to connect with family via the internet. We have chatted on Facebook video chat, Livestream, Microsoft messenger, Viber Video chat, and Google Hangouts. My personal preference is Google Hangouts but I’ve also had really good luck with Viber Video Chat. Most years, we stream our Christmas morning festivities live via Livestream. I like that I can later download the video and save it for the future.
Video chatting with our non-tech savy family members is an exercise in extreme patience with long phone calls providing technical assistance. My husband has spent hours trying to get video calls started for his mother. These technical assistance calls at times have gone on so long that I had to put the children to sleep before they ever get to chat online with the grandparents.
Try different online chats to find the one that works best for your long-distance relatives. (Admittedly, this may be different for every relative. Just go with it)
But don’t give up! Video chatting is so wonderful for connecting with family.
Tell stories of your childhood to your spouse, children or friends. Sharing my stories of holidays gone by or awry never fails to make me feel connected. Listen to the stories of your spouse or other loved one. Cuddling together on the couch or cooking dinner together as we tell stories always makes me feel more connected.
Create new traditions
Find an activity or event that calls to you and go for it. Try it on for size. What was it that you always wanted to do as a kid but it wasn’t a tradition for your parents? Visiting the movie theater Christmas night? Opening one present Christmas Eve? Walking or driving the neighborhood to see Christmas lights? Taking in a Christmas play? Sharing around the Thanksgiving table what you are each thankful for?
You may find that what you thought would be a great tradition, just isn’t a good fit. It’s okay. Try on a different tradition. Try on your spouse’s or your friends traditions. Or go down the rabbit hole and visit Pinterest for idea’s.
For thanksgiving we change out of our casual clothes and dress for dinner. We’ve been doing it for more than a decade. My favorite part is that we set up the camera on a timer and take our photo. It provides wonderful memories to look back upon.
It may take a few years for something to stick and feel like a tradition.
My husband and I tried going to the Nutcracker Ballet. It wasn’t for us. We tried creating unique and fancy sounding meals (think rack of lamb). It didn’t stick.
We put up our artificial Christmas tree for years never giving much thought to a real tree. Until one year five years ago when we weren’t feeling a lot of Christmas cheer and we decided to try getting a real tree to lift our moods.
Now, an artificial tree just doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore.
Keep a few old traditions
Growing up the tradition in my home was to open our Christmas stockings in our pajama’s. Before breakfast. And I have kept this tradition alive. We cook breakfast then the kids must get out of their pajama’s and into Christmas clothes before we open gifts.
Let the memories of past Christmas, be just that. Don’t try to replicate your childhood Christmas.
You’re a different person and the loved ones that you are celebrating the holidays with are different as well. As cute as those funny family photo recreations are, don’t try to replicate your childhood Christmas.
Trying to replicate the past will only make this holiday season fall short. Let go of the past nostalgia and make room for this year’s wonderful memories.