Moving to a new place, we have been exposed to a vast new culture that we have the privilege of experiencing firsthand. We also want to make sure our small children are growing up grounded solidly in an understanding of what it means to be an American. That means a lot of reading up on history to update and refresh our knowledge. It also means remaining steeped in current events and pop culture. Investigating the purposes of various holidays, examining the changes in how they are observed, and seeing the contrast in how events are enjoyed by people in my two worlds has become a fascination. It is also beautiful to learn alongside the children about this distinct culture we’re witnessing.
For our children at this age, it was more about making sure they experienced quintessential activities they would be part of if we were in the U.S., like participating in an Easter egg hunt or trick or treating.
In our first year in Thailand, we have defaulted to local observances of Mother’s and Father’s Day, and we would have taken part in Songkran festivities were we not in the U.S. at the time. In the next year, we’ll celebrate Independence Day in addition to what they have come to expect from Halloween. Funny enough, this year big holidays in the U.S. and Thailand happened to fall on the same day: Thanksgiving and Loy Krathong.
After attempting to organize a gathering of Americans for a Thanksgiving dinner, we instead allowed our girls to experience Loy Krathong for the first time. It might have been sad to think about missing out but, away from family, football, and turkey, persisting in having a Thanksgiving didn’t seem appealing (It was easy to pass up on imported, expensive turkey and inauthentic replacements for unavailable ingredients when there’s a promise of an even better event).
We’ll make our own customs and memories as our kids grow up, and they begin to have their own expectations of holidays. As your family lives and grows abroad, consider these three tips for cultivating your own unique family traditions.
- Be open to doing things differently or making your own traditions.
- Evaluate the holidays you’re accustomed to and rethink why it matters.
- Embrace the cultural traditions of your adopted country – it may be a new family tradition to bring back home.
With Christmas upon us we’re starting a new tradition of traveling as a family until the new year. Stay tuned for my write up on our time in Vietnam visiting Ho Chi Minh and Phu Quoc. What holidays or customs has your family adopted while living abroad?