Christmas Market in Lille, France
A year living abroad means a year’s worth of holidays away from my beloved traditions and family. Some people think we’re lucky, others find it sad that we’ve been away from home for the holidays.
However, we considered it an experience we never thought we’d have, but since it was offered to us, we decided to make our own European holiday memories. Here’s how we spent the holidays:
Independence Day: Shockingly, no one in England wished us a Happy 4th. Even a crack about how the ragtag colonists kicked the Red Coats’ butt would have been appreciated. We considered decking ourselves in American flag regalia and crashing the early July apartment complex cookout with sparklers in hand, but instead we let the holiday quietly pass by waiting for our Internet provider to work their way through the queue and flip on our DSL switch. Now that I understand English culture a little better, this actually seems like an appropriate way to commemorate an event in American-English history. After all, queuing is England’s great passion.
Labor Day: Bank holidays are so common in Europe and rare in the U.S. that the only odd thing about this holiday was that my American colleagues had a day off work and I didn’t.
Thanksgiving: I cooked a feast for two, but my little kitchen, equipped with dull knives, pots with uneven bottoms and only the most basic pieces of equipment, left me with few options for traditional dishes. I attempted an apple pie using a ready-to-bake pie crust from the grocery store, but like all British baked goods, it came out of the oven dry and tasteless.
Christmas: We went to Christmas markets in Lille, France and London, then stayed at a castle (o.k., really, it was a palace) in England for Christmas Eve through Boxing Day. My mom sent a box of her homemade Christmas cookies and we Skyped into the festivities at home.
New Years: We headed to Vienna,Austria to see the opera, watch fireworks and toast 2012 with champagne.
Girl Scout Cookie Season: Turns out, I missed this American tradition more than I thought. A Lent without Girl Scout cookies saved me some calories, but only an authentic Samoa can curb the annual craving.
Opening Day: I really missed being home for the start of the baseball season. Whether it’s snowing in Cleveland or a perfect Spring afternoon in Cincinnati, Opening Day is a hope-filled celebration of America’s favorite pastime. Being away for Opening Day made me realize what my favorite holiday is.
Easter: We headed to the Scottish Highlands for the four-day Easter holiday. A beautiful place to spend a weekend, but a terrible place to spend the most holy days of the liturgical year. The Highlands were the last stand for the Jacobites and when the revolts were quelled, the Catholics were eradicated. We could not find a church within 100 miles where we were staying.
Being away from home has made me realize that what I miss most are family, apple pie, Girl Scout cookies, baseball, and freedom of religion. What could more American than that?