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Is Christmas a Mandatory Holiday at Your Home?

Santa hat on Globe

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The older people are, the more likely they are to celebrate Christmas as a mandatory holiday.

I used not to have to ‘think’ about how we would spend Christmas. I’d have a quick chat with the family, and we’d discuss several options, I’d book flights and off we would go.  Then years turned into where we had to coordinate two college schedules; a VISA or Kitas card extension (legal document to stay in a foreign country plus online VISAs for our travels) and an aging dog.

One year the Airlines must have loved me! One ticket had to be changed two times before December!  When I went on-line to recheck everything I would start to panic.  What had I forgotten? Entry Permit for Indonesia for both children – check upon arrival, Australia VISAs online and approved for our trip – check.  Multiple hotels and transits – check. Wine tours, Sydney Tour, New Year’s Eve plans – check. It was a great holiday taking the kids back to their birth country and well worth all the planning necessary.

This year will be much simpler. All of us are living in the USA, and everyone is planning on coming to Lake Tahoe to visit our home.  No extensive travels or international hassles until 2018.

Being an expat increases the likelihood that somewhere along the rental car line you will have a ‘concern.’

When we returned to Western Australia, I booked a nice van for my family to travel in. I was somewhat worried they won’t like my Indonesian License or Kevin’s Thai License, but at least we did have one child with a USA valid license, so I assumed this would not be a ‘concern.’

It is always so confusing for the rental car agent to deal with us.  We are living here, a credit card from there, insurance from a different place and licenses from other countries. In hindsight, this is when it might have been a good idea to have a “loyal” program so that the database would show you as being a consistent person.

Today I drive with a USA license, and it scares me that my photo will remain the same for another eight years.  I am sure I will not have aged at all in these upcoming eight years.

Being a parent increases the likelihood someone will put up a Christmas tree.

 Every year we try to have a Christmas tree put up where we are at Christmas. When we are home, it is easy. When we are in a hotel, it is not so easy. When we are on a beautiful tropical island, not easy at all. By now, my family is one that thinks outside the box.

Christmas in the Caribbean Sea

Here is a photo of our tree – one year on a tropical island. Grant made it.  Yes, sixteen red solo cups made our lovely little tree. It was just perfect on Christmas morning when we had our stockings casually draped on the floor waiting for the anticipation for the kids to get up and open their Santa stockings. We did this in the wee hours of the morning, but as the kids got older, we are just hoping it to happen before noon. Amazing how tired young adults can be after finals and a long semester.

As we all get older and the kids get older, the clutter of wrapping paper and the massive display of gift giving is getting smaller and smaller. We are not giving up consumerism totally, but we are all on the same page. We have a lot of beautiful things already in our life, so we just give the most precious gift of “time.” It is an excellent feeling.

We value time together, excellent food and exceptional sunsets.

My family has been lucky enough to spend Christmas in a variety of locations due to our jobs working abroad. Because we are a global family, traditions are necessary to keep. One tradition we have is the kids Christmas stockings being placed under our Christmas tree each Christmas Eve hoping Santa arrives. The stockings have a special meaning to our family since they were cross stitched and made by their Aunt Jennifer and  Aunt Jackie.

What is more important is the place where the kids hang the stockings – it must be under their Christmas tree. This is hard to do if you are not spending Christmas in your own home. Now that my kids are both adults, Santa has arrived in Australia, Borneo, The Cook Islands, Canary Islands, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, Honduras, as well as multiple locations in the USA.

A look back at a special times

The one Christmas tree that makes us all still smile is the one my son made in the Cook Islands. He had been in the hotel lobby watching the hotel staff get all of their decorations set up for the holiday event. They showed him how to weave flowers into strips of leaves and drape them over the vast tree in the lobby. He then went out into their gardens and collected enough natural supplies to decorate the Christmas tree in our hotel room. There was only one small problem. We didn’t have a tree!

He took every pillow and cushion in our hotel suite and fashioned a pyramid in the corner of the room. He draped all the leaves and flowers over this pile of cushions and proudly announced that it was our “Christmas Tree!” He then went and got the stockings and put them at the base of the cushion tree. We all remember how it was the rest of that day and night waiting for Santa!

We had to watch TV as we were sitting on a brick hard couch without cushions. We tried to sit on the balcony to watch the ocean but found the rattan chairs without any cushions unbearable. The hardest thing was trying to get his older sister to go to bed without a pillow. My husband and I were able to pull our pillows off the “tree” for our bed after the kids went to sleep and before put them back before Santa arrived.

One year our creativity was not hard to do. We were staying at a beautiful B&B in Scarborough, Western Australia for Christmas Eve. I was hoping they would have a lovely tree up.  If not, we planned to find a small tree and tape it to our picnic basket as we head out to the beach.

This year, we have our Christmas tree permit in the Lake Tahoe Basin on our table, strings of lights on the floor and ornaments in various boxes. Now, all we need is a boy from Honolulu and a girl from Los Angeles to show up so they can go cut down the tree and drag it home.

We love our holiday rituals at Christmas.

Family reunions are important because they allow the family to create rituals that connect the generations. Children tend to love family rituals, even if they don’t admit it. Rituals provide a sense of security and can be soothing. A family ritual is anything your family does together deliberately.

Rituals are emotionally enriching. It is never too late to start a ritual. Some children may resist being involved in such rituals. But if rituals are presented in a non-controlling manner, and you manage your expectations, all family members will ‘get on board’ much more readily than you thought.

I have worked with many families that want to start building closer family time, and one fundamental way to do this is to have family reunions. Christmas is a great time to do this! We will be spending another tri-generational event this year.



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