A Different Kind of Holiday.

I’m sitting here, as I just finished Face timing with my family back home, thinking about a question that my almost four year old cousin had asked asked me: “Why do you live so far away?”

The holidays have quickly arrived and this is the first Christmas that I have missed in my whole life. No matter how old I got, whatever work schedule came my way, or wherever I lived, I always managed to squeeze in at least 24-48 hours of holiday family time. Our family traditions have always been the same, year after year, and I’ve never failed to be there to enjoy them. My dad’s side of the family on Christmas Eve- eating lots and lots of food and sweets, drawing names and exchanging gifts, catching up on everyone’s lives and recent events… Then Christmas morning spent with my parents and sisters (who also always manage to come home for the holidays), and then off to my mom’s side of the family to spend Christmas afternoon!

This is also the first year that I have missed a Black Friday ever since I could remember. I first started out going with my aunt and uncle to get their yearly “Santa Bears” to add to their collection. Then it grew into something all the grand kids did together, and up until recently I’d just go to say I braved the insane groups of mean people on Black Friday because it was tradition.

But now we live far away. Far away in a country where we have none of these traditions, we have no family, no Black Friday, no Christmas snow, and where everything is open on Christmas Day! It feels like everything is backwards! So when my almost four year old cousin asked me why I lived so far away, I wasn’t really sure how to respond. Why do we live so far away from everyone and everything we know? Of course, the most simple answer would be “Because we were ordered to.” But that wouldn’t be entirely true, nor make sense to him or to anybody for that matter without a detailed explanation.

However, after thinking about this, I came up with a simple and concise answer for myself: “Because we chose too.” Seeing all my family together around the Christmas tree, smiling, laughing, and bustling about, I thought about all that we not only had to, but chose to, give up just to come to Japan for a couple of years. I heard exciting news today about my younger, newlywed cousin who is going to have a baby and I began thinking… I just can’t believe it. Things are changing so fast and I’ve only been gone a little over six months! We have chosen to give up being there for weddings, holidays, pregnancies, and kids growing up. If this much has happened already, then think of how much more I will miss out on by the time we return to the States! And to top that off, we moved thousands of miles away and I’m not even guaranteed to see my husband for more than four months out of the year, let alone holidays… I mean, what were we thinking??!?

This little cousin of mine is very special to me. We became very close when my husband was in Afghanistan, spending a lot of time together, and I miss seeing him very much. I often wonder if we will still be close when I get back to the States. I know he will, but that thought of “I hope the kids remember me when I get back” lingers in my mind. They are still young but kids grow up so darn quickly!! I just wish I were there in person to tell him that we had to go away to create our own traditions. Traditions and experiences that we can one day share with him and his family. We may have given up on many things when we left and we will definitely miss out on many more, but we have to stay positive and remember that we are able to experience places and things that many people will not have the chance to do. And while this may not have been a good time to leave from the lives of others, it was an ideal time in our lives and marriage to make this journey.

So, as I sit here alone, in a foreign country, I quietly think to myself: we’re not alone and in fact, haven’t been since we’ve arrived here. There may be no old traditions, or Christmas snow, or no family of our own. But in the short time we’ve been here, many people have come into our lives and have made us feel welcome here. We just have to think of them as our temporary family until we can return back to our own family. We wish we were able to be back home for the holidays, but in the meantime, we’ll just have to celebrate the holidays a little differently. After all, the Japanese don’t usually celebrate Christmas, but they do observe it. There are Christmas trees displayed, lights strung up around the city, and even Christmas music in English playing wherever you go! It’s hard to feel completely alone with all this Christmas cheer!

Here are holiday moments that we’ve been able to share with our “family” here in Sasebo, Japan:

1. Our holiday party for the BHR command.
2. Making gingerbread houses with my Japanese students.
3. Learning holiday origami.
4. Being invited up on Mt.Eboshi for a Christmas Eve dinner.
5. Receiving Christmas cards from Japanese students who spent an afternoon with us earlier in December to enjoy the holidays.

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Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Sasebo, Japan!!


Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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