At the risk of sounding horrible, it's the idea of spending Christmas at home with my parents that strikes me as odd. I hadn't done it for years, and did it two or three years ago and it was wonderful and fun, like a vacation from life. All those old Christmas decorations I remembered from being a kid, my stocking with my name, mom's home cooking, and the surreal experiencing of it actually snowing in BC.
You'd think to hear me talk about it that they were still living where I grew up. But we moved a lot as a child, and I think they had one house in Ottawa that I never even saw. This latest move, the one I really believe is the last one, has them happily tucked away in Nanaimo. My mother does home improvement projects while my father putters in the garden, and they take my demon cat on 'play dates'.
When I think about spending Christmas far away from 'home', I don't think about childhood Christmases where I always got a madarin orange at the bottom of my stocking. I think about Christmases where snow was a requirement and the Christmas lights twinkled from too many windows. I remember the way my mom always makes me fruit cake (which I love) and sugar cookies (which never taste right unless she uses the same cookie cutters) and mails them off to me. And these two Christmases I've now spent overseas... that's what I miss.
It's not been far away from home, or not spending Christmas with friends and loved ones. I've always been blessed in my friends, and have always been able to make some connection with them, no matter where I am. But I miss the tastes that make Christmas, I miss the way the snow crunches under your feet.
This year, I'm trying out new things. I'm baking my own sugar cookies which taste and look nothing like mom's. I'm going to make a goose, I think, and have home made cranberry sauce. I'm making my 'home' out of different tastes and flavours. I'm not trying to replace what Christmas is back in Canada, or even in Nanaimo, or Sherwood Park, or Hinton. I'm just trying something new, and accepting that nothing I can do will recreate that time I woke up to find a huge box that contained every single published Star Trek novel in it. You can't go back, you can only go forward.
And I think that's really the key to surviving a major holiday living overseas: don't try and make it like it was at home, because it won't. Try and make your own tastes, your own experiences. Your own sugar cookies, as it were.
Or, when your parents get you an Amazon.co.uk gift certificate for Christmas, try and get them to deliver everything at once, so there's a really big box of cook books instead. Like Star Trek, only different. (It's a really big box. I'm so excited!)