How To Deal With Christmas Away From Home

I have never done one of these ‘seasonal posts’ so bare with me. I have been thinking about which holiday to focus on and I settled that Christmas and I have a rocky enough history to be worth talking about.

When I was little, I loved Christmas, but as I grew older, the atheist in me wanted nothing to do with it. Many of us non-believers still celebrate it for the presents and not for any cultural tradition or anything noble like that. When I turned 21, I decided to boycott it altogether and although I got crap for it, I was able to hold off for 2 years.


Christmas at an Airport, 2009

Then I moved abroad, and celebrating it with the family was less of a choice. My buddy Vicente talked me into visiting China on Christmas vacation of 2009 and while he was totally right that it would be an amazing trip seeing all those Terracottas, I celebrated Christmas that year in Incheon Airport. In fact, I didn’t arrive in Chengdu until 3am on Dec 26th.

I guess I never take pictures in airports, except of the airplanes. Anyways, you get the idea.
I guess I never take pictures in airports, except of the airplanes. Anyways, you get the idea.

It was hardly devastating as I wasn’t planning on celebrating anyways (so don’t feel bad for me), and the airport did have all the possible cheer, but it just wasn’t the same.


Christmas in Mexico, 2010

2010 was a lucky one as I was back home and we went to visit our extended family for Christmas and New Year’s with aunts, uncles, and cousins I hadn’t seen in almost a decade. It was definitely a very special Christmas. I didn’t ask for anything and surprisingly, I enjoyed presents more that way.

My mom's side of the family. All my aunts and uncles.
My mom’s side of the family. All my aunts and uncles.

Christmas with Sidney in Korea, 2011

Unfortunately, that was the last Christmas I spent with family, but all was not loss. 2011 Christmas was spent with Sidney for the first time and it was great showing her about our traditions and such. Christmas is more of a ‘couples holiday’ in Korea, so any sort of meaning is loss in the over-commercialization and the Korean need to one up each other on the expense of it all. We had a white Christmas, and suddenly, that song made total sense.

(Go head, click play, its Frank Sinatra!)


Christmas After That

2012 and 2013 were also spent in Korea and while Sid and I have grown a sort of tradition of going on a trip the following vacation (usually over the last week of December), I always make sure to call home to see how everyone is doing.

Sid sledding in Taebaeksan
Sid sledding in Taebaeksan

This year, it looks like New Zealand has a similar amount of cheer as I remember in my early childhood, so I am looking forward to it. Yeah, I could still complain about the over-commercialization, the lack of my family, or the fact that I work the day before and after (again), but why focus on the negative?

So, what’s the connection with this post’s title right? I am not a religious person, so the exact date is kind of irrelevant. However, for me it is a perfect time to reflect, and in the midst of all the chaos of life abroad. It is a good time to appreciate what we have back home.

I guess the way I have learned to deal with being away from home on Christmas is to appreciate the times I am back. Had I never been abroad, I don’t think I would have appreciated family time as much as I do now that I am older. I am hardly homesick, but I definitely did enjoy every second of family time.

Mom and Danny at the Getty Center
Mom and Danny at the Getty Center

Words of Wisdom… Words of Wisdom… okay okay I’m getting to it

So, how do you deal with being abroad in Christmas? I would say the best way is to try to treat the time you do have back home as Christmas. Don’t avoid late night conversations with mom, buying your brother a present, or just dropping in on friends and family. Christmas is not a day, it is a symbol that can be celebrated any day of the year if you want it to.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Julio Moreno
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