For many expatriate families here, Christmas is not the same as when celebrated back home. Yet, the distance and their long absence do not dissuade them from recreating that festive atmosphere, with some holding on to the age-old tradition and others finding novel ways to make the day a joyous occasion.
For the Thomsons who is celebrating their third Christmas away from the UK, Christmas here is as exciting as usual with mommy Lyn’s traditional stuffed turkey complete with the trimmings, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding — with the perfect weather to boot.
“Everything else is the same. We have set up the Christmas tree and Louise’s new dog is running around it, couldn’t quite know what to make of it,” said Lyn with a laugh. “All the kids are excited about the Christmas,” she added.
Christmas day for her is getting up at 5am to put the turkey in the oven then going back to bed afterwards.
“We’ll probably get up at 8.30am, get the kids some breakfast and then open their presents. Then I’ll be running like a headless chicken to prepare Christmas dinner and afterwards the kids will play with their presents. We’ll also do a karaoke for the first time this year,” says the indefatigable mother of four.
Although the family loves the weather here, Lyn sometimes wished for snow for Christmas. She also admits to missing the evening carol service in the church with her children, where everyone has to put on something warm before venturing out into the cold.
“But we’re all together and that’s the most important thing,” she said.
Christmas this year for the Guillorys will be a bit different with their eldest son, Kyle, away in school in the US. Nevertheless, the family will celebrate the Yuletide season as usual.
“We will be going to the house of Dan’s boss to celebrate Christmas for the sixth year,” says Claire.
“Christmas is not going to be the same without Kyle. But we will stay in touch by Hotmail messenger,” she said.
Claire has not been back in the Philippines for the last 10 Christmas seasons and misses the midnight family gathering for ‘Noche Buena’. “We can’t do that here because no one’s going to stay awake that long to eat.”
She added that her husband also misses the morning church and the Christmas lunch back in Louisiana since he has been away for Christmas for the past 13 years.
But as far as the tradition goes, having Kyle home for Christmas is what matters most, especially for his kid brother Ethan.
As usual for the Pangilinans, Christmas is marked with the ‘Noche Buena’ on Christmas eve and the opening of gifts on Christmas morning.
Although the Filipino family has been living in the country for 10 years and considers this their home, there are still many things that they miss during this festive season.
“The carolling in every house, where everyone is so nice and generous. The presence of immediate family members and relatives, and grandparents’ Christmas treats,” says Emily.
“We don’t have the doting grandparents, aunties and uncles who tirelessly run around making everyone so happy. It’s the children’s time to get spoiled and pampered, and that feeling of something magical and enchanting are a challenge here but we tried to be creative, so our little Tala will have the same Christmas as back home or perhaps a snippet of our childhood Christmas experience will be at least shared and instilled in her,” Emily states.
Regardless, “Christmas here or anywhere else will always be the same, it’s the spirit of love, peace and generosity that matters,” she notes.
Who says Christmas is not truly Christmas when you’re not home? Christmas really is where you feel loved and wanted, not where you think you ought to be.
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