How was your day?
What did you do?
Did you have a warm and cozy time with your family, relatives and perhaps, friends too? Did you excitedly prepare the Christmas dinner, retouch the Christmas tree and then cuddle up with your family on the couch after the meal?
Okay, maybe what I just listed are not even closed to what your family does every year during holidays. I think I got those images from the movies, and it has stuck in my head ever since.
Before you read further, I want you to continue with this post (if you have already stumbled here on a random chilling moment on Christmas Eve) with a very moderately happy tone in mind. Don’t take it as a sad and lonely post, because I should not allow you to.
Ever since I dreamed of seeing snow from the other side of my hypothetical house’s window, while wondering what Christmas gift I might get, while waiting for my mom to prepare dinner and my dad to finish up setting up the Christmas tree; I have never had a single Christmas as such in reality.
Quite understandingly, it majorly is due to where I come from. Our culture don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, at least not the same as how my American, European, or if you allow me to generalise a little, as my Western friends. However, as any other kids, I enjoyed dreaming of the things I could not have. It questioned me when I saw the kids in the movie, living in the Western world, celebrating their Christmas holiday. I saw how the holiday were perceived very important to those people in the movies. And that magic can happen in this holiday. The best kind of magic will happen under the falling snow.
Where I come from is a tropical place. We don’t have snow. Instead, we have hot sunny days. We also don’t cuddle up inside the warmth to watch movies after eating big meals. Instead we usually dress nice and go outside. Some of us, whose religion is Roman Catholic, will go to church and have a bit different celebration, although I cannot tell you the exact details differing. Not every house have a Christmas tree and Christmas lights, but the centre area of my home city always has tons of Christmas decorations people are lining up to take good pictures with. There are also specific districts of the city, where each house put great effort in putting up Christmas looks, for passing visitors to observe in awe.
My annual Christmas years over there were mostly the same. I usually demanded my parents to take me to the centre for pictures; or I would figure out other ways to be there. It was always crowded, but I never minded. I wanted to feel the magic vibes of Christmas. And if I cannot see the true magic, I want to imagine them, by being dazzled by Christmas lights.
I remembered one Christmas, my dad took me to that special district to see one house by another house with amazing decorations. Another time, I was already a teenager and went to the centre with my friends. We all dressed in red, but I was jealous of how nice the other girls looked like in their clothes, even though I probably had already asked my mom to buy me new ones before. In some ways, I always felt inferior to the other same age kids, especially in the appearance during junior high years. Anyhow, that Christmas year turned to be a little wild, in my own sense back then. It was my very first time to stay out later than midnight. It was not intentional. I and my friends got stuck within the parade going on, since on that same day, the national soccer team won. We could not find the taxi to come home on time, so each of us had to call up our parents. I waited for my parents as well. I did not remember if I was even punished for that; the only part I recalled more strongly was when my family stopped at a restaurant on the way home, for night snacks. Suddenly, even though the streets were filled with crazy people racing motorbikes (as a way of showing happiness with the game victory, and maybe also patriotism; but I would never know how it ever got started), no snow or whatsoever, I felt so cozy within. Certainly, it was also partly thanks to the warm noodles I ordered.
Many years before, when my little brother did not join our family yet, I recalled my obsession with Christmas trees. There was this one time, my aunt brought home – a big house where three families on my dad side lived together – a small Christmas tree. She wanted to decorate that with her kids. But she only put it inside her family’s room. My cousins did not want me to join in, and if I recall right, I was being kept away from the tree at distance. You can imagine how disappointed I was.
And, those were the only two Christmas from the early years of my life I can remember. After the wild one I had during junior high, the next one staying with me the most was the Christmas I spent with my high school boyfriend, of course.
Among all kinds of things have shifted after I moved to Finland, my Christmas changed too. The scenes became closer to my childhood dream. The first year I was in Finland, I saw snow, beautiful and magical snow I only witnessed from the TV screen. In 2012, I finally could stand under the snow, let them touch my face coldly and tried to identify every snowflake falling on my gloves, which I still do them whenever snow comes. It was a very good Christmas. I spent the first holiday abroad with my two closed friends, whom still remain in my life in a certain degree and have been through ups and downs with me. We watched three movies: The Holiday, Love Actually and Rare Export. I bet you might know the other two, but not the third one. It is a Finnish movie with very dark humour sense, which took me at least 2 years later to finally get it.
Okay, so dream did come true, but that is the thing about life. When your dreams actually come true, it stops being as perfect as in dreams.
The strange thing about coming from a culture not celebrating a certain holiday to a culture celebrating it importantly, puts me in middle point. Christmas was no longer a holiday when I could never experience the real atmosphere because of geography, but a holiday where I could not experience the real atmosphere because of my rootedness. I don’t have my biological family here to come home to during Christmas. My other kinds of families has changed. I learned the hard lesson that things are hard to keep as traditions annually. I am also incapable of buying tickets to fly home. And even if I do fly home, or fly my parents here, we don’t celebrate Christmas. To them, Christmas will always be one of those Western holidays we can choose to join in the vibe or not.
Deep in my heart, I was not born with a cultural string attached to Christmas. So, it would be okay for me not to celebrate it. But admittedly, I am also not okay for not joining in the vibe. Christmas is very contagious. It gets into you, especially when you don’t have your friends to distract you. You will have them instead reminding you of a frustration during weeks before Christmas comes, when you realised you had no plans at all.
Told you already I loved Christmas lights and once obsessed with Christmas trees. Well, maybe the obsession has ended but my love for the lights never changes. I like to walk around and look at houses with the very shining lights. My heart gets warmed up, despite the very cold wind might splash against my face; as unfortunately, snow might do its tricky business and stop right before Christmas. Plus, the temperature raises up enough for everything to melt. The scene of white Christmas will turn into a grey, rainy and rather dark one.
In fact, that was how Christmas 2016 year to me. I did those same things on my Christmas Eve 2016. Apparently, I wrote the whole long piece just to tell you now, I spent this Christmas alone.
Two years before, I got one company for Christmas, and got invited to a small party which I had had never said yes if I had some better things to do. Three years ago, I had a dinner gathering at my place. Well this year, officially, I spent Christmas alone.
Remember I told you to have a moderately happy tone in your mind reading this post? Well, hang onto it, because I did not just say that for everyone, including me, to feel bad for me.
Let me tell you, I had a moderately good day. It was cold, but I walked more or less 2 hours outside to absorb the coldness. It was sharp but fresh. I got taken away by looking at some decorated lights. I even smiled thinking some family is gathering around, catching up and preparing for dinner nights. During those whole two hours, I wanted so much to sit down and write this. I wanted to tell others, who might be in just same situation as me: coming from other parts of the world which does not celebrate Christmas big and/or not being able to go home this year, and/or not having anywhere else to be but staying at home alone; that it does not have to be the worst thing ever.
I was too, quite nervous before this day reached. I knew I had no plans. I knew I might be alone. So I mentioned it often to some friends. Half of me wanted them to suggest me something to do, half of me did not want them to. My closed friends gave me invitations anyway. Although I was very touched, in addition to relief of having some backup plans, I decided to be alone. I figured, I did not want to intrude my friends’ moments with their families either. Plus, being surrounded by families can highly trigger my homesick mode during holidays. If you happen to be alone like me, please don’t beat yourself up. I have beaten myself up enough this year to do that more during holidays, right before new year kicks in. Do whatever you wish to do but cannot when you are not alone, just like in movie Home Alone. Hey, perhaps another childhood dream comes true?
If you are far away from your family, call them, Skype them, FaceTime them. I don’t know about you but I have been horrible in keeping in touch with even my own family. There is always some excuse to use for not calling them, so that I can selfishly avoid explaining to them my course of actions. But it’s Christmas holiday in wherever you Iive in the world, and your friends are with their families, it cannot be a more (cannot emphasise enough) perfect time to pick up the phone, and call your parents. Let them annoy you. Just because you cannot physically be there with them does not mean a call is any less meaningful.
If you are a little more active, you can also organise a dinner gathering yourself, with others in the same situation. Alternatively, search for parties where you can join in and find company. If those are not for you, you can simply be like me. Treat this day a bit more special, but not less ordinary than any other days. I don’t see this as lying to myself. Even so, I needed this lie; sometimes, white lies are necessary as you might know.
Tell yourself, this year unfortunately happens to be a tiny bit lonely, but enjoy the freedom, the quietness, the peace, the laziness, the lying around because next year, or next month, or just next week, you would get your butt out of the house to do something.
Christmas might not be special to me as much as my Western friends. However, in a sense, this holiday is still magical. It would be a bad lie for me to say I would want to spend every Christmas years like this year. But for now, for 2016, it is okay. I only have a week left before 2017 arrives. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that there was even a 2016. It scared me so much to see 2016 as a year missed. Perhaps it was, also, maybe it was not. I did not achieve anything I would hope for. I am still fighting the battle started at the end of 2015. I have lost some friend connections. I got beaten down, hard enough to even barely walked. But it’s December 24th 2016; and I have just taught myself again to pick up the good things out of a bad situation, it was enough as a glorious moment for me to compose this post sharing with others. The very first step of becoming better, to see my chances to win my mind battle.
P/s: I just remembered, last Christmas, I had an “Orphan Christmas” with friends, who did not have family to be with during the holidays and who were suffering from writing thesis. I saw a Santa Claus on a boat the next morning on December 25th. 😉