In search of a new Christmas ritual

It is Christmas soon, y'all.

I have been reflecting a little this week about how my immediate family will be split across four locations at Christmas.

My parents will be in Sydney with my sister, her husband and their daughter. Another of my sisters will be with her husband's family in Hawkes Bay and my other sister will be with her son. Me, I'll be tucked up in Northern California with LP's family, probably curled up by the fire.

I am, as it stands, currently between Christmas rituals. 

For the first 22 years of my life my family Christmases followed a pretty established routine; the six of us, no outsiders, champagne breakfast, presents, lunch, nap, a few groggy drinks and a movie on television.

Rituals end, I guess. I was away for Christmas in 2007. In 2009, my Sydney-dwelling sister had a month-old child to contend with and so my parents went to her for Christmas. I was in Northern California in 2010 and then back in New Zealand for Christmas '11.

Logistically, moving forward I know that my entire family will be together at Christmas with growing rarity. I'm partly nostalgic about this but it makes me less homesick than I might have figured a few years back.

It seems logical that this was always going to happen. My siblings and I are both part of one long-existing, close-knit family unit and also poised to make our own new family units.

It makes me wistful to think of an era being over, but it's not a sad feeling. It's quite the opposite. I feel as though I'm looking out in to a new, more adult era of my life.

What I have started to recognise recently though, is that with the end of old rituals, I don't really have anything to orient myself by seasonally.

In New Zealand you can feel the country build toward the end of the year. Christmas is tied into summer and is the longest holiday people take each year. As it gets warmer in the country, people start to get excited for a little downtime and an ensuing festive mania invades the zeitgeist.

In Boston for two years, being on the East Coast and in the thick of winter and snow as Christmas drew near, there was something about the atmospheric conditions that seemed to sync nicely with the iconography of the holiday season.

But now in San Francisco the weather is merely a little chilly. It's cold, but the sort of weather that could still pass for a slightly brisk summer's day in New Zealand.

And to confuse the senses further, people don't shut down for weeks over Christmas here. Americans are back at work in the first few days of January.

So, five days out from Christmas, I don't feel festive at all. It feels weird that Christmas is next week.

I don't mean any of this in a grumpy or moody sense. I just don't know what my new Christmas ritual looks like yet. I haven't put the new building blocks and seasonal rituals in place to anticipate. I'm not yet aware of all the subconscious seasonal cues in San Francisco to tip me off that Christmas is coming up.

But like everything in my new life abroad, I look forward with anticipation, rather than backwards with sadness. It is better that way.

I'll probably shortcut my personal Christmas circuit board with red wine and a few spins of Snoopy's Christmas (an annual tradition I can access anywhere). I need to buy LP a present still and I'm sure a run in with the American commercial machine will force a little spirit into me. I'll enjoy a few quiet days with LP's family and I have a calling card handy to touch base with my parents and each of my sisters, all of whom are very dear to me and I miss a lot.

Things are different. Things are good.

I imagine to the mass of current and reformed expats reading this, this is all old hat?

Which brings me to the end of a year's worth of blogs!

Thank you for reading, commenting, hanging out on Facebook, writing, liking, tweeting and clicking those little thumbs up and thumbs down icons at the bottom of the comments section on the new system. Your willingness to engage and share your thoughts makes this whole thing so fun and worthwhile.

This will be the last post until January 7. But, I'll still be lurking about the Voyages in America Facebook page with a few dashed off thoughts and photos throughout the hiatus, so if you're experiencing any withdrawals, you know where to find me.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Be safe, be happy and be good to each other.     

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