The Random Writings of Rachel: An Expat Christmas

An Expat Christmas

Today, I'm joining in with "The Expat Holidays" blog series, brought to you by MontgomeryFest!

We're heading into our 2nd Christmas abroad next week, and the first one in Malaysia (for Angel and I together).

I find that my childhood wasn't really one that left me with deeply ingrained holiday traditions, and my adult life thus far hasn't been one that clings tightly to tradition, either. I could say it was a Christmas tradition to go to the candlelight service on Christmas Eve at my grandparents' church, and so it was, but of course, we've only actually made it there on years we were in town for the event.

Last Christmas, Angel and I took the train into Hong Kong with friends and watched the last installment of The Hobbit. The Christmas before that, we spent in Texas with Angel's family, and opened presents at midnight, during the first few minutes of Christmas morning. Christmas tends to look like something completely different from year to year, and I'm comfortable with that.

A few traditions 'stick' better than others. One of those is handmade Christmas cards, Nearly every year, I design and make simple cards for both my parents to send out and for Angel and I to send out. My parents include a family photo in their card. Angel and I don't. I figure everyone must know what we look like since I post dozens of photos on this blog every year.




The hibiscus, or bunga raya, is the state flower of Malaysia. I was pretty proud of my clever design this year, though perhaps it might not make much sense to those who don't know that the bunga raya is a symbol of Malaysia.

Angel and I didn't send out Christmas cards when we were in China last year because we never ended up figuring out the postal system. Oh well!

Stockings are also an awesome Christmas tradition that I intend to maintain from year to year. My grandma bought me a beautiful stocking with my name embroidered on it for my first Christmas, and ever since then, all the little toys and candies that my parents stuffed my stocking with became one of my favorite parts of Christmas. The big fluffy stocking did not make its way all the way over here to Malaysia, but nevertheless, Angel has certainly been charged with the responsibility of finding presents to fill a symbolic 'stocking' (which will probably be a plastic bag from the grocery store).

One thing I really, really don't miss about Christmas in Michigan is snow. White Christmases are overrated.

How do your Christmas traditions change from year to year along with big life changes that you face?

8 comments:

  1. Ha! gotta agree with you on the snow. If I didn't see snow again until the day I died I wouldn't miss it. I'll have to move where you are for that to happen though : )

    We often don't do presents anymore so just good homemade food and some decorations with a bit of overeating is the usual traditions that I enjoy from year to year.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  2. I think people will get the flower thing on the card. Even if they don't know what kind of flower it is, they can see that it's a tropical flower and probably can guess that it's native to Malaysia. I love the idea! Growing up, we never really had traditions but my husband's family has a ton. It's fun to learn about his traditions and to create our own.

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  3. I love it!! I got the Malaysian flower reference and thought it was completely clever...I just didn't know the specific name of it ;) we're always somewhere different for the holidays too. the first year we were in Europe, we wanted that whole white Christmas and then it snowed until April in Brussels, so we went to the Canaries the next year....and that beach Christmas was miiighty fun! haha thanks for playing along, Rachel!

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  4. I like the snow if we can ski! And that's what I'm doing this Christmas with my husband and kids. I'm an expat living in the USA and I'm usually big on including our British traditions into Christmas. But, this year it's just us and skiing. We haven't even got a tree, yet. And any gifts are ski/snowboard equipment or gear given now so we'll open very few presents on Christmas Day.

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  5. Yes!!!! I am so excited to see your homemade Christmas cards!!!! I've been thinking about them since you commented on my Christmas card post!! They are, of course, gorgeous! I'm not the least bit disappointed haha!

    I love me a white Christmas...but see, I love me some snow. I am bulkier than you so many my extra natural layer of warmth has something to do with it :) HAHA We did get a nice little layer of white last night and I woke up this morning about ready to pee my pants.

    Anyways, my fam didn't do much as far as "traditions" - we were a very small family and my mom worked a LOT so we didn't get too much time together. i do remember watching Christmas movies together, tho, so I do that a lot with my kiddos. And of course unwrapping the Christmas ornaments was a big to-do, so I carried that through to my home too. I am trying to start new traditions for my kids. Maybe a few of them will stick :) MERRY CHRISTMAS RACH!

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  6. I feel like my traditions are in transition mode! When I was growing up we always had deeply ingrained family traditions that were the same year after year. Now all of my cousins are older and many are married and have kids and we've literally outgrown my grandmothers house in terms of how many bodies can comfortable be there at once. And I'm working on spending time with my family and my boyfriend's family...I feel like Christmas is going to be weird for a few years until new traditions are established along side the traditional traditions!

    I love those cards, I think they are the cutest!

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  7. Oh, how fun! I love your homemade Christmas cards! Those are definitely wonderful ideas. Hmmm, our traditions are pretty low-key, I suppose is the best word. We always make meatballs on Christmas Eve, take a family photo on Christmas day, and open up our "Santa" presents on Christmas day so we can sleep in... heh! We're all adults now, truly. :P I also bake cookies about two weeks before Christmas, usually the ones we always bake.

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