Portable Christmas traditions for Expats

Reading the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds was a real eye-opener in terms of managing this high-mobility lifestyle that we lead as expats. One of the things mentioned was the importance of having portable family traditions that help solidify the family identity and sense of rootedness in family, wherever you are in the world.



For us, this truly comes to the fore during Christmastime. When we began this lifestyle, our children were toddlers and there was no real sense of immediacy to celebrating the holidays. That has changed dramatically in recent years and made us aware of creating traditions and rituals that would define our Family Christmas. What, my husband and I thought, were the things that made our own childhood Christmases special? What are the things we’d like to introduce to our own children? And can we practice and preserve these traditions even as we move from one country to the next?

Here are some of our Portable Christmas Traditions:

Vintage Christmas tunes
Beyond the usual suspects of Christmas trees and food, we pump up the vibe at home by kicking off December with some good old Christmas music. Our sound of choice would be vintage Christmas music, the Rat Pack especially. Our kids belt out tunes from this album in the car, at home, while walking in malls, in the snow, through city roads or village roads, depending on where we are at.

Hand-drawn Christmas cards
We encourage our children to uphold the tradition of sending Christmas cards to our loved ones which, when you come from a large family, can mean a lot of work for the kids. As much as our merry bunch enjoy doodling, they can only do so many pictures of Christmas trees and Santa Clauses. And so this year, we decided to scan their favorite drawings and made those into a collection of cards to send off to friends and family around the world. Of course, sending them off on time is another challenge altogether.

Kids-made Christmas ornaments
As soon as our children could pick up a marker and glue bits and pieces together, each child would make a Christmas ornament that would be sent to each of their grandparents’ homes every year. Spending Christmas away from family is one of the things we – and our families, especially the grandparents – often find bittersweet. Our kids’ ornaments are a way of staying connected with them during the season. The grandparents love receiving their parcels, hanging the ornaments in their respective trees at home and seeing how the kids’ art and creativity change over time.  We started with popsicle snowflakes, then painting styrofoam balls and moved on to other materials and media like plaster of paris molds this year. Nothing that will break or disintegrate in transit, of course!

There are, of course, other things we do regularly. Like capturing the year that was through a Photocalendar or baking Christmas biscuits and adding some DIY decor to our home. But these would be our Top 3 portable traditions which we take with us wherever we are in the world that bring in the Christmas spirit into our for-now home.

Have you created portable Christmas traditions for your family too? Here’s a funny and unusual one we read about in another blog. Crazy!

Written by Marite Irvine

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