Welcome to the December #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl!
This December, we talk about the much anticipated and somehow dreaded, ultra sentimental Christmas holidays. How were the Christmas holidays outside your home country? How is it similar and different? What did you enjoy most spending Christmas abroad?
Find out how we spend our holidays and how it feels to spend it in different corners of the globe, so don’t forget to read more stories of fellow trailing spouses at the end of this blogpost
I’ve known Marie Calica-Schiller when I was much younger and deep into competitive swimming. I have fallen out of love with the sport and turned to eating (LOL!), while Marie continued to stay on the fitness track with rock climbing, yoga and more. On top of that, she was a magazine editor at one of the best women’s magazines in Philippines, a make up artist, beauty & fitness writer and a barre3 instructor. Talk about being multi-talented!
She recently packed her bags and a couple of balikbayan boxes to join the love of her life in Switzerland, where she now is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.
And this is her story.
I have the loveliest childhood memories of Christmas. When we were much younger, my parents pretended that Santa Claus gave most of our presents. One year (when I was about 6 years old) my six sisters and I ran down the staircase early in the morning to find our living room floor strewn with brightly wrapped gifts, miraculously dropped off by Santa while we were asleep. On another year my family and I celebrated in Tokyo, where we discovered that St. Nick had a hotline parents could call so that their children could tell him what they wished for. Of course, my parents were in the room as we talked Santa’s ear off, and little did we know that they were taking down notes!
When my sisters started having children, the Santa Claus tradition continued, and not only did we pretend Santa dropped off my nephews’ and nieces’ gifts at midnight, we went as far as leaving clues that he was actually there. One time he left his hat, another year he dropped his belt (which actually belonged to my father, who at one point in his life had a belly that was “big and round, like a bowl full of jelly.”). Accompanied by the gifts was always a letter from Santa to all the children in the family. In it were carefully crafted rhymes that my sisters and I wrote to celebrate the goodness of each child.
As the years went on, however, some sisters moved away, others had their own families to celebrate with, my father passed away, and my mother got very sick. What was once a festive celebration turned into quite an ordinary evening for me. Then my mother passed away, and about a year later I moved to Switzerland to be with the man I love.
Each Christmas we drive to a little town close to Munich in Germany (his hometown) where we celebrate the holidays with his parents, his sister and her husband, and their two adorable children. On Christmas Eve, we go to Church for the Christmas service, then watch his parents perform in the choir, after which we drive back home and have a specially cooked dinner. The prayer before the meal is replaced by a hymn sung by the whole family—each one knows their assigned voice: alto, tenor, soprano. It is a beautiful melody that has been a family tradition for years, and one which I am still learning. After dinner there is usually a musical showcase, where the kids play the piano or violin, or as in last year’s case, my husband and I sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” while he strummed the ukelele.
Before long it’s time to open the presents. Of course the children have the most gifts given to them, but they also love giving presents to the rest of the family: handmade soap dishes, artfully crafted candle holders, paper weights. All this activity—this entire celebration—is done in German (except for the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” rendition). The first time I spent Christmas with them three years ago, I could only smile and laugh (and whisper to my husband in English). But each year it gets better, and I can converse more with each family member.
Perhaps this year I can even crack a few jokes in German.
Christmas with my new family in my new home is definitely a far cry from the Christmas of my youth. But something binds my Christmas present with my Christmas past: there is an overflowing abundance of love. Christmas, wherever you are in the world, needs just that one ingredient.
Maligayang Pasko—saan ka man sa mundo. (Merry Christmas – wherever you are in the world)
- Didi’s story on D for Delicious How Christmas abroad started out tearful, but turned tearless after some time.
- Yuliya’s story on Tiny Expats on their journey and experience of winter holidays in 6 countries along the way.
- Abigail’s story on Cuddles & Crumbs on a look back on what we have been doing on Christmas and slowly working on our family traditions.
- Tala’s story on Tala Ocampo on how the Ocampo’s spent their first Christmas abroad in Colombo, Sri Lanka celebrating not only Christ’s birth but also the birth of their daughter Luna.
- Glendale’s story on G’s Kandy Krush on how she is celebrating my first Christmas in Sri Lanka, where she resides with her husband and 2 sons.
- Third’s story on Pinoy in America on how Pinoys have successfully brought the Philippines’ best-loved Christmas customs and traditions to America.
- Marc’s story on Fatherland, explaining how Christmas is different this year compared to past Christmases.
- Jenny’s story on My Mommyology on how Christmas in Manila or in the US is different every year with the kids. Or is it the same?”
- Kristine’s story on Tala Ocampo where Mac shares her reflections with Tala on spending Christmas away from home for a total of 15 years