Photo Essay: Holding onto Holiday Traditions While Living Abroad

Holiday lights, candles, and glass pieces on top of a table in Yangon, Myanmar.

The longer I live abroad the more important it seems to hold onto holiday traditions from my childhood. Retaining at least aspects of these habits helps keep a past part of me alive in addition to lessening the distance between loved ones. Although I don't make it home for Christmas as often as I'd like, I try to find ways to bring home to the table wherever I may be.

Just as important as clinging to familiarity is adaptation and creating newness. Throughout my travels I’ve sampled different ways to celebrate Christmas, and have combined these with what’s always been to sort of form my own way to do the holidays. 

Opening presents on Christmas Eve, a meat and cheese tray at dinner, as well as pussy willows are all favorite memories from my past. Mulled wine, having a gingerbread house, and deciding to take turns smashing the gingerbread house to bits with a wooden spoon are all acquired customs. 

What are some ways in which you hold onto holiday traditions while at the same time as embracing fresh ones? This photo essay provides a peek at the small gathering I hosted this year, and features old and new traditions I’ve combined to celebrate Christmas while living abroad.

Red pussy willows against a white wall in my apartment. Yangon, Myanmar.
Red pussy willows against a white wall in my apartment. Yangon, Myanmar. December, 2015.
A gingerbread house and red pussy willows from above in Yangon, Myanmar.
A gingerbread house and red pussy willows were among several decorations for my holiday party. Yangon, Myanmar.
A table and Trek bike decorated with lights for a Christmas gathering in Yangon, Myanmar.
My table and Trek bike decorated with lights for the Christmas gathering. Yangon, Myanmar. December, 2015.
Holiday party table spread with food, glass pieces, candles and lights in Yangon, Myanmar.
Holiday party table spread with food, glass pieces, candles and lights. Yangon, Myanmar. December, 2015.
Cheers with four glasses of mulled wine in Yangon, Myanmar.
Cheers with four glasses of mulled wine in Yangon, Myanmar. December, 2015.
Friends gathered around a table of food, candles and lights for a Christmas party in Yangon, Myanmar.
Friends gathered around a table of food, candles and lights for my Christmas party in Yangon, Myanmar.
A small Christmas tree with big lights as decoration for a holiday party in Yangon, Myanmar.
A small Christmas tree with big lights was a main attraction at my holiday party in Yangon, Myanmar.
Orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves used to make mulled wine in Yangon, Myanmar.
Orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves were all that was left of the mulled wine. December, 2015.
A smashed gingerbread house on top of a green plastic garbage bag in Yangon, Myanmar.
Smashing a gingerbread house to end the holiday party is a fun, new tradition. Yangon, Myanmar. December, 2015.

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