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Celebrating the Universal Spirit of Christmas: What I Learned From My Global Life


An Expat's tale of 12 Outstanding Christmas Memories

An Expat’s Tale of 12 Outstanding Christmas Memories

Celebrating Christmas abroad

can be a

once-in-a-lifetime treat!

Here are my 12 favorite ways we have celebrated Christmas.

1. With my friends from Brazil – they shared the myth of the animals discussion about the birth of Christ. Then their children acted out a rooster crowing “Christ is born,” an Ox saying “Where” and the sheep answering “In Bethlehem.”  These were the cutest kids ever. Our Turkey dinner turkey was served with white rice flavored with walnuts.

2. With my friends from Vietnam. As an old French colony, Vietnam is the home of one of the largest and most active Catholic populations in Asia. Our holiday celebration was several weeks after New Year’s Eve. We celebrated “Tet,” the Vietnamese holiday for the Lunar New Year. I thought the green wrapped sticky rice cakes were too pretty to unwrap but we did unwrap the Chung Cake and it was lovely. We also enjoyed the beef braised with cinnamon. They called it Thit Bo Kho Que.

3. With my friends from Italy – First Sunday of Advent where we shared a lovely dinner. Their children told us about lighting candles in their windows to guide baby Jesus who will deliver gifts. The story I loved the most was told by their six-year-old about the candy cane coffee cake. He said, ” There was a candy maker who invented this for Christ. It was hard cause Christ is the rock of ages. It is made into a “J” for Jesus but he liked to turn it upside down to remind him of the sheep herders staff or

He said, ” There was a candy maker who invented this for Christ. It was hard cause Christ is the rock of ages. It is made into a “J” for Jesus but he liked to turn it upside down to remind him of the sheep herders staff or cane”  It was white for the pureness of Christ and red for the blood he shed for sins. If there is green on it, it is a reminder that Jesus is a gift from God.”

Mary at the Simens Home, Photo by Grant Simens

Mary at the Simens Home, Photo by Grant Simens

4. With my friends from Germany – they shared with us their unique items they got from the Christkindlmarkt!  In Bangkok – Seems like we have many of the same Christmas traditions which did make sense since our Christmas roots are from Germany. I still have the manger scene from that party. I do believe the Lebkuchen (gingerbread) was the best I have ever had. I was impressed with the punch (Feuerzangenbowle). It was hot mulled wine, high alcohol-percentage rum and open flames. What’s not to like about that!

5. With my friends from Russia – Father Frost visited on New Year’s Day where we had a tree lighting festival and exchanged gifts. We had pickled cucumbers to “go with vodka” and the largest bowl of caviar placed on chipped ice that I have ever seen. They had made Kozulya,  cookies in the shape of a deer, goat or a sheep. They are traditionally enjoyed during the first days of the Christmas season.

6. With my friends from Turkey, we celebrated December 6th the Feast of Saint Nicholas as the beginning of the Christmas season. We had Turkish coffee and Kaymakli Kuru Kayisis (cream stuffed apricots).

7. With my friends from Chile, we shared “monkey’s tail” on the island of Bali.  At first, I was worried but then found out that Cola de Mono (monkey’s tail) spirits with coffee, milk, and cloves. Yummy! We also had a Chilean Sponge cake that was flavored with cloves and nuts (Pan de Pascua).

8. With my friends from Korea – Did you know Korea is one of the largest and fastest growing Christian population in Asia? We had the best night singing Christmas carols. Loud and, again and again, our favorites ones. It was the first time I saw a Santa in a blue Santa suit. He is known as  known as Santa Harabujee) or Grandpa Santa.

9. Spending Christmas in Spain was a wonderful experience. With our friends from Madrid, we saw many life-sized manger scenes and the first time we celebrated the Eve of Epiphany (January 5th). The Three Wise Men placed gifts in the shoes our children left outside of the hotel door. The hotel manager asked us to join in this tradition.

10. Our son, Grant after visiting the Czech Republic told us of the festival of Saint Nicholas on December 6th and the Three Kings Day on January 6th. That sounds like a whole month long of wonderful food and fun. I did like the gold-coloured sweet Christmas bread – (vánočka or štola).

11. On Rarotonga, Cook Island we went to midnight Mass and all the children were dressed in white and looked like angels. Their singing was magical.

12. With familyany location. Special memories made and shared. Christmas is truly the time to connect. We often celebrate with rituals that involve food and fun memories.

Home can be anywhere for a Global Nomad

Home can be anywhere for a Global Nomad – Booklet by Jennifer Schnoebelen

 

 

Embrace the “global-ness” we all have and share a part of our life with your quasi-family you have collected during your time abroad.

 

 

We are now celebrating the holiday season in Lake Tahoe.  I have several friends from the past and newly found friends. In fact on the timeline of life, we have only just met but who knows we might run across each other around the world as we all celebrate with our nuclear family in our chosen place to spend Christmas this year.

I have been so lucky!  I have had many once-in-a-lifetime unique treats!

Notes:

To do List in regards to Christmas and food:

  • Brazil  and try Rabanada (French toast)
  • Italy and try Panettone in Milan, Pandoro in Verona, Panforte in Tuscany and Prosecco in Veneto.
  • Germany and try a Christmas Stollen (Christstollen)  a fruitcake with bits of candied fruits, raisins, walnuts and almonds and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. Try a Pfefferkuchenhaus – a gingerbread house decorated with candies, sweets and sugar icing (in reference to the gingerbread house of the fairy tale Hänsel and Gretel)
  • Cuba to try Crema De Vie – Cuban eggnog, made with condensed milk, rum, sugar syrup, lemon rind, cinnamon, and egg yolk.
  • Denmark to try Æbleskiver – traditional Danish spherical pancakes (a type of doughnut with no hole), sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with raspberry jam. To also try Julebryg – Christmas beer.
  • Jamaica to try  black cake – a heavy fruit cake made with dried fruit, wine, and rum.
  • Lithuania to have a Twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper – twelve dishes representing the twelve Apostles or twelve months of the year.

 

 

  • December 13, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks so much – over 1,040 people have read this blog – Much appreciated -Julia

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