Now that we prepare for Christmas, we see how much color our moves around the world have added to our lives. Our children love opening the drawers of the wooden advent calendars that we have found on a Swiss Christmas market. Though we still struggle with the pronunciation the Christmas songs in Swiss German have remained part of our repertoire. Since we have lived in the States, red and green stockings hang on our chimney. Santa Claus still comes on Christmas morning and of course, we leave cookies and milk for him. Now that we have moved to Belgium, Saint Nicolas also pays a visit earlier in December.
Christmas traditions from our respective home countries are also part of our happy mix, and they get somewhat tweaked with every international move. My French husband is already happily planning the elaborate Christmas menu. Thankfully, he is open to use the Belgian chocolates we love for the “bûche”, the traditional French cake, this year. For me as a German, advent would not be the same without the wreath and its four candles. We light yet another candle every Sunday of December – but the advent songs we now sing are from Germany, France, Switzerland, the United States and many more countries.
The holiday season never fails to bring out the most wonderful aspect of expatriate life for us: We can keep what is best about our cultures of origin, and add to their customs by learning from the country we live in. Some holiday traditions of our family are dear to us and our children insist that they have to stay exactly the same year after year. Others evolve as we move around the globe and learn from our friends in each the new country. This happy hotchpotch is just what makes Christmas so special for us!
By Ulrike Lege, St. John’s parent