The Ups and Downs of Spending Christmas Abroad (in a Country That Doesn’t Celebrate It) | Speaking of China

30 Responses

  1. Catherine Yigit
    Catherine Yigit December 22, 2014 at 6:39 am | | Reply

    Yes is the very simple answer! Here in Turkey all the trappings of Christmas have been transferred to New Year so the decorations are up, the turkeys will be a week late and Santa may even arrive to some. But that’s not quite the same thing as an Irish Christmas. Now even though we’ve made our own traditions I find I don’t have the same enthusiasm for it. Maybe it’s because all of our celebrations come down to me, maybe it’s because I’m moving further from the excitement of childhood, maybe it comes down to belief. Who knows. But it’s perfectly fine to feel a bit down at times, especially when you miss family and home. Sometimes we try too hard to make out that everything is perfect instead of admitting that while we’re happy in a long term sense to be where we are, at this moment in time we are sad and miss home. As you say being honest about why you’re down, and making an effort to appreciate the good new traditions you create really does help. Wishing you and John a wonderful Christmas!

  2. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary
    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary December 22, 2014 at 7:29 am | | Reply

    I guess I am one of those super-positive people on the web these days talking about Christmas. However, I have spent the last 15 years in Taiwan during Christmas and now have my own traditions for the holidays!

    And I know exactly how you feel. When I first arrived in Taiwan, signs of Christmas were few and far between and I yearned for the magic of the holiday season. However, a good friend invited me to a huge get together with other expats and it made my Christmas.

  3. La Renarde
    La Renarde December 22, 2014 at 10:45 am | | Reply

    Thanks to a Franco-Chinese family, I spent almost half of my life in China, and I am currently living here. Which also means that I have spent almost half of my Christmases in China (and half of my Chinese New Years in France).

    It never disturbed me. But I have to admit that I was lucky to (almost) always have my family with me each time.

    Be it Christmas in China or Chinese New Year in France, we would decorate our home and prepare everything as if we were in the “right” country. And we would always have friends who would be as expectant of the festivities as we were. So we could have all this “holiday cheer” between us. I guess it never really mattered to me that the whole world was not enjoying the same celebration as I, as long as those I cared were.

    And nowadays, with globalisation, there is a lot of Christmas decorations in China (or Shanghai at least), or Chinese decorations in France when times come. I always found it fun to explain one event to the “other” part of the world, see what they make of it, and spread the holiday cheer around me, even to those who usually wouldn’t know a single thing of what’s going around.

  4. Kim
    Kim December 22, 2014 at 11:21 am | | Reply

    Thanks for posting how you’re really feeling. As it is now, I am home for Christmas when I didn’t plan to be, and it is the first time in four years that I will be celebrating with my family. The last four years I’ve been in Xining, and my good Canadian friend and I have been having massive Christmas celebrations for the last two years.

    I tend to get cranky around the holidays no matter where I am, including this year. Things might have been better under different circumstances (like if my husband was here with us or if I’d planned to be here in the first place) but things are as they are and there isn’t much to be done about it.
    I also find that as I get older there is less and less magic when it comes to the holidays (and more and more work). I think it will start to change as our girl gets older, but for now, I think feeling a little down is normal during the holidays, especially if you have really warm memories of them from your childhood. It sounds like you have a really nice family. Feel blessed that you do and that you have them to miss. It will also make those Christmases that you do have together that much more special.

  5. R Zhao
    R Zhao December 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm | | Reply

    I just finished writing a bit about this topic and plan to post later today or tomorrow. I have been incredibly homesick this year and it’s not a feeling I’m accustomed to. I think it’s okay to feel that way, but you have to try to find a way to pull yourself out of it. For me, I’ve been keeping busy and endulging myself in some things I might not otherwise (namely high quality chocolates and beer, haha). I’ve also worked hard to create my own Christmas traditions in China and it helps me enjoy the holiday here.

    I think it may get easier with time. Maybe there is some solace in that?

  6. MM
    MM December 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm | | Reply

    Jocelyn…you cam back to China last year in November, so you spent 2013 Christmas in China. Were you feeling this way last year? If not why do you think its so different this year?

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a time machine and pop back home for a day or so (especially during festive times such as Christmas, Birthdays etc).

    You and John will create your own Christmas’s, for now it may be just you and John but in coming years your family will grow and your Christmas’s will be shared others. (whether they be immediate family, distant family, close or adoptive friends)… they’ll come to celebrate the Christmas you and John created together, and I’m sure it will be a wonderful gathering.

    Yes accept and acknowledge how you feel , and Jocelyn maybe those people on face book the ones that give the impression of “we have perfect lives and never get depressed”, maybe some of them are acting and actually feel sad, lonely and depressed.

    Jocelyn I wish you, your husband John and all your readers a very Merry Christmas and a happy 2015. Look forward to “Speaking of China” 2015.

  7. chinaelevatorstories
    chinaelevatorstories December 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm | | Reply

    I haven’t been feeling very Christmas-y at all this year and sometimes I even forget Christmas is this week. I suggested to my husband to go to Harbin for Christmas, and I’ll see what it will be like. My husband has been very pro-active in arranging things, but I guess Christmas just isn’t the same here – especially this year, because we don’t have a permanent place to stay at yet.

    Don’t beat yourself up about not being overly happy. Just like you said, that’s life. We can’t force ourselves to be happy 24/7 and no-one has a perfect life (even though it sometimes seems like it when you spend too much time with social media).

  8. Grace Buchele Mineta
    Grace Buchele Mineta December 22, 2014 at 5:24 pm | | Reply

    I like that you don’t pretend to be happy all the time. It’s refreshing.

    1. Laura
      Laura December 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm | | Reply

      🙂 it is!

  9. suzan torres
    suzan torres December 22, 2014 at 6:28 pm | | Reply

    Jocelyn, we miss you too. You are with the man of your dreams and in a country you love. It is ok to be a bit sad but you will find after the day has come and gone that being loved, safe, and in good health is what mattered. So, dress up that little tree, sing your carols and know we love you and Jun! Aunt Sue

  10. Marta
    Marta December 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm | | Reply

    It is totally understandable if you are feeling down! There is nothing wrong with not being upbeat and fun the whole time, and I agree with what you said about social media… all smoke and mirrors! So don’t feel bad about feeling blue in Christmas… after all spending the holiday here is nothing like you are used to!

    I am not a very Christmasy person so I’m fine these days, but sometimes I feel sad when for example one of my friends gets married and I miss their wedding because I am not in Spain. But this is life! Choosing China made us leave some things behind but we encountered others, new and exciting 🙂

    1. Laura
      Laura December 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm | | Reply

      In this one I’m quite similar to Marta. 5.5 years in China and I don’t really feel sad that Christmas here is so different. Christmas back home was full of sadness for me for the past 17 years since I felt divided between two sides of the family. For me this is refreshing.
      However, I feel bad when I can’t attend a wedding or be there for an important birth.

  11. Marion
    Marion December 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm | | Reply

    Jocelyn, this is the first time I’ve commented, but your blog has helped keep me sane for over a year now through my own ups and downs in a confusing relationship with a Chinese man. As I write, nothing seems any clearer and I have my own dose of holiday blues. Chin up! Let’s all of us grasp life’s challenges and look forward to whatever surprises 2015 brings. Thanks, Jocelyn, for the wonderful blog. If I lurked in silence this long, there must be many more. You never know how many lives you touch. Happy Christmas!

  12. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen December 23, 2014 at 12:14 am | | Reply

    Congratulations, Jocelyn, on being honest and telling it like it is. Expecting a super perfect old-time Christmas is setting you or anyone up for a fall.

    Yesterday we went to Mass in Indianapolis, and the priest was complaining that the airways are full of Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells and other songs that have nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas: the birth of Christ. I guess he was expecting an old-time Christmas that never was.

    I’m at my daughter’s house with my other daughters and their families. My daughter is a big planner, so we have the Christmas cookies, the crafts, the tree, the performance of A Christmas Carol, etc.

    When we lived abroad, it was in the Philippines, a country that celebrated Christmas, though in a different way. The first year we tried to dress up, but it was too hot to enjoy our fancy clothes.

  13. Eileen黃愛玲
    Eileen黃愛玲 December 23, 2014 at 12:29 am | | Reply

    I can relate to you on a certain level. I admire that you’re honest about it. Despite I sound very cheery (I think?) in my posts – it’s not the whole picture. I feel pretty lost, alone and unsettled.

  14. Anna
    Anna December 23, 2014 at 9:31 am | | Reply

    I feel with you Jocelyn. I it is very brave and honest of you to put your feelings out there. I admire you for that.
    For my part, I might be still in the denial phase. Thinking if I don’t openly acknowledge that I am feeling down, and hate being in China during Christmas, maybe I can convince myself that it isn’t that bad after all. I get the feeling I am up for a deep fall.

    I had to work on Sunday, had to work very late hours yesterday, and will have to again today… And I do this in order to get off on Christmas eve. Unfortunately, due to all the work (and a nasty cold I caught due to no electricity and hot water AGAIN), I just cannot find the time to get into the holiday spirit or do some planning for Christmas eve. I hope to get some cooking done, and have a relaxing evening at home with my husband though. He will be working the rest of the holidays. I cannot find anything nice about celebrating a holiday in a country which doesn’t recognize that holiday at all. You don’t even get off from work for those days, how are you supposed to celebrate? -.-

  15. Cat
    Cat December 23, 2014 at 11:31 am | | Reply

    I agree with Grace, it is really refreshing to read this – particularly at this time of year with social media full of rose-tinted festive cheer!

    My Chinese fiancé and I are spending our Christmas in a very practical and non-festive way – moving house while the streets are conveniently deserted of traffic!

    I really appreciate your blog – it has kept me company through a lot of new/good/bad/difficult/rewarding parts of being in a cross-cultural relationship.

  16. Hilary
    Hilary December 24, 2014 at 7:34 am | | Reply

    Yes! Absolutely. My first Christmas away was in Thailand in 2004. 2005 was also in Thailand. Us volunteers had our own Secret Santa and advent exchange but the stress of missing home still ran high. I distanced myself psychologically. 2006 was with friends in Japan. 2007 in Japan, I worked and had a good cry after. My hubby-to-be and I were living in different cities. 2008 was a disaster! We went to Canada but slept in the airport en route due to a storm, our bags were lost until after Xmas, and it was too cold to leave the house. The last five years have been in Canada but Christmas seems to be so full of drama and anxiety that I’ve run out of steam. Only today, finding a Christmas book for my child by chance, have I felt an inkling of sparkle for this time of year. I see I could keep going so I will instead thank you for sharing your feelings and for the blog post idea!

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