When I moved overseas I carried my old culture with me. But my holiday joy fell out when the bottom of the box broke. Holidays just aren’t the same in another country. You don’t realize how much emotion is packed around each holiday until you try to unpack them and realize that no one around you feels the same way about this date on the calendar. Much of the culture built into each holiday is developed in childhood. But if you don’t spend your childhood in this country, you don’t have all the same packaging around your memories.
Think about it. Do you remember the first Valentine’s Day heart you decorated in Elementary school? Probably not, but I bet you remember the joy (or stress) of passing out your cards and candy in class. And where did you learn about Martin Luther King Day? Probably in school. And who doesn’t remember all the hype and build up before Easter and Halloween?- holidays synonymous with Candy in the kid world. And what if you moved to a country where Thanksgiving and Christmas were no big deal- or worse- didn’t exist?! Would you feel jilted if you had to go to work when your American friends and family back home were celebrating together?
Holidays aren’t the same overseas. For us here in Costa Rica, Juan Santamaria Day just doesn’t thrill my soul. And unless we go buy them ourselves, July 4 comes and goes without fireworks (but you can hear fireworks on random other days… like last night.). Unless you are Catholic, Easter means a two week vacation to the beach instead of a new dress, an Easter basket, and a special church service. No one has ever heard of the Easter Bunny here! (And they have a Rat instead of a Tooth Fairy! Imagine growing up with THAT legend crawling under your pillow!)
So when I unpacked my box of holiday memories, I feel the sadness of losing something that I didn’t even know I had. We make a lot of sacrifices to be where we are and to do what we do, and this one hurts me a lot. We do our best to replace or replicate the broken holiday joy, but it’s never the same. We will always be outsiders on those special holidays in our adopted country, and over time, we start to forget about the American holidays that come and go without a Hallmark card reminder. I guess holidays don’t travel well.