Every expatriate family needs portable holiday traditions to help us rejoice.
Real Christmas trees aren’t common in the desert of the Horn of Africa and fake ones weren’t a priority for our initial luggage allotment. Eventually when a relative visited, they filled a duffle bag with a small fake Christmas tree. We have three nativity sets – one is a Fisher Price Little People set, one is a set of hand painted wooden blocks made by a family friend and one is a glass set so small that all the pieces fit in the palm of my hand. We have a snowman with 25 drawers that my mom sent. I put clues in the drawers and every morning the kids read the clue and search the house for a piece of candy or a small coin. We have cookie cutters and sometimes we have Christmas-colored sprinkles.
And that’s about it. Oh, and strings of Christmas lights, iTunes music, and a couple of DVDs including an old, taped from TV version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The best part, hands-down, is the commercials from the early 90’s.
But my favorite, absolute favorite Christmas tradition is not the decorations or the cookies or the music or even the fabulous meal we make on Christmas day.
Nope, my favorite Christmas tradition is something that we can bring with us anywhere we go. It doesn’t require packing or planning or cooking. All we need is our family. Five Joneses. They can be in Djibouti or Kenya or Minneapolis or Florida or on the moon. We could probably even make it work if we were in transit, stuck in some airport or airplane, though people might think we were nuts. That’s okay, we probably are, at least a little.
Some families read the Nativity story, some sing Christmas carols, some have special routines around the unwrapping of gifts. We do read the Nativity story and we spend all December belting out Christmas carols Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and anything from either the Beach Boys or New Kids on the Block Christmas compilations.
But on Christmas morning, before opening gifts, we wrestle.
All out, all family members included no matter their age or desire to participate. The first year the family wrestled, my husband (a wrestler) had little difficulty pinning his wife and infant twins. Two of the three of us were already on their backs when the match began. The battle has gotten increasingly more difficult, loud, violent, and sweaty as the kids have grown.
The battle always ends in tears. Early on it was because we scared the children. I screamed, Tom picked me up and threw me (gently) down. Later on it was because of frustration, rug burns, or the crushing disappointment that yet again, Daddy had won.
The winner gets the honor of hoisting The Belt and scribbling their name on the back of The Belt and taking a photo with The Belt. This is the only piece of our tradition that could be packed but we could, and have, wrestled without it.
The Belt was a wedding gift, yes I said wedding gift, and is a life-size foam replica of a WWF championship belt with a golden sticker glued on.
The winner does not have to be a single person. Should the four of us weaker members decide to gang up on dad, we could share the glory. We have tried this in the past and as the kids get bigger and the dad gets older, the chances are beginning to tip in our favor.
Should you be traveling and see a family of 5 rolling around and screaming on Christmas day, that might be us. We’re rejoicing. It sounds like screaming, looks like pain. We are together, we’re celebrating Christmas, we’re rejoicing.
Every expatriate family needs portable Christmas traditions. What’s yours?
Photo Credit : Gratisography