When you can't get home for the holidays

Apr 17, 2009

Living away from home, be it in another country or a different state poses many challenges. From establishing new social and support networks to finally finding a good hairdresser (trust me guys, this is a big one, I have been through 4 hairdressers and have still not found "the one").

One challenge I have managed to avoid, is having to deal with family traditions surrounding holidays. Up until now we have been ever so kindly adopted or absorbed into another family's holiday tradition or we have managed to be away on vacation (translation for the Australians: a vacation has a different meaning to the word holiday in the US. A holiday is a day to commemorate or celebrate a particular event or holy day, e.g. Christmas, even Valentine's Day, whereas a vacation is a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest or relaxation).

This time Passover and Easter were rolling around and being the nice culturally and religiously diverse blended family that we are, we celebrate both. It seemed the onus was on me to make the plans. Question was, what do I do? Do I try to emulate the organized chaos that is 25 people at my mother's house after two days of cooking and cleaning for Passover?

It seems this very same question was vexing my neighbor, Pennsylvania. She has recently moved from Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. For as long as she could remember every Easter accompanied by her husband and two daughters would be spent around the corner from their house at her parents place. The family tradition involved a hearty lunch with the extended family and watching over the kids as they hunt for Easter Eggs in the backyard. This year, they had decided to stay in their new Washington D.C home, but the question for her was the same as mine, does she follow family tradition or do something different?

In our own way both Pennsylvania and I had come to the same conclusion. We both went about organizing our respective holiday meals (because it is always about food) and days to be quite different from the usual family traditions we grew up with but we kept some of the "stuff" that makes it feel like a holiday. For Pennsylvania it was all about the Easter Egg hunt, for me it was all about cooking the right food.