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Thoughts on spending holidays far from home

My first major holiday far from home was Thanksgiving 2007 when I was in Bilbao, Spain, rather than home with the family. It was weird. But really, it was weird mostly because it wasn’t weird. I mean, it seemed strange that everyone back home was eating turkey and watching football and drinking wine with family and friends just as they did every year on that day. But during that day in Spain, I didn’t feel sad. I was surrounded by new friends, we had a nice meal, drank wine, and watched soccer together. It was the same, but different.

Traditions are absolutely fantastic. Everyone knows what to expect and they get so excited as the anticipation for those traditions builds in the days and weeks leading up to the event. Traditions offer comfort, stability, a sense of belonging and “home.” I, too, like our family traditions! I love that when we were growing up, every Easter Dad would write little clues – usually as rhymes – and put them inside those colorful plastic eggs that opened to create a full-fledged Easter Egg Hunt for us. We would tear through the inside of the house, pulling apart couch cushions and pillows because something in the clue said “sitting” and in our blind competitiveness we ignored the part that said “rocking chair.” We would race around outside, pushing as needed, to find our next clue and throw the enemies off their trail. “Hey, I saw one of your eggs over by the swingset!” Nope, I definitely didn’t see that, but you foolishly believed me and now you’re wasting precious time!

It was just so much fun and something we all looked forward to each year. It was almost as much fun as it was this year when Mom and Dad came to Roatan for Easter and Dad wrote out the clues for the Irish-Colombian and I to compete (don’t worry, my years of experience and sheer obsession with beating him allowed me to – ahem – gracefully find my basket first). The tradition continued in a whole new place, with new people, under completely different circumstances and it was still as lovely as ever.

My point is this: it doesn’t have to be the way it always was to be special. Holidays are celebrations! They are times for us to reflect and appreciate our loved ones more than we do under the stress and chaos of our everyday lives. We often forget to show our gratitude to those we are closest to and we seldom take the time to decorate the house in a new way, splurge on a big fancy meal, and gather friends and family from afar. Holidays mark the calendar with time allotted to us just for those occasions.

I’d like to see us all seize those opportunities more regularly, forgetting the calendars and the expectations and instead enjoying our loved ones and spreading joy and happiness without having to be reminded to do so by a day off from work and commercials on TV. I think we’re capable of more. Of course, I say this now having just been reminded by my much more level-headed other half that I don’t need to spend tons of money to try to send gifts to everyone back home. He reminded me that those material things don’t take my place at the table and a video chat over a glass of wine will be much more valued by us all. Time together is good for the heart. And, hey, so is a glass of red wine.

Happy Days, everyone 🙂