Everyday Life · Everything Marriage · expat life · Life in Nepal · Personal

Celebrating holidays in a cross-cultural household

Actually, this post is more like…NOT celebrating holidays in a cross-cultural household.

I read somewhere that one of the good things about being from different cultures is that you can celebrate double the holidays. But in our case, if we’re not in the country, we end up celebrating neither.

At this time last year, we were in Nepal. So we celebrated Dashain and Tihar in the exact same way that they should be celebrated. With all the fuss and the fanfare. And then December rolled in and then next thing I knew, it was gone. Without any fuss or fanfare. Christmas, my most favorite holiday of the year, perhaps the biggest holiday in the Christian calendar, definitely the biggest holiday in the Philippines, just passed me by. Or I let it pass me by without making any serious effort to celebrate it. We were in Nepal, everyone around me didn’t care much about it, I didn’t make them care about it. It was what it was.

Fast forward to this year, and we’re not in Nepal. So Dashain happened. And Tihar just happened. With neither fuss nor fanfare. Scott has been very busy with work and did not have the physical or mental energy to think about celebrating. He did not know the exact dates, he got confused with the timezones, and more importantly, he didn’t know how we could’ve celebrated in our own way.

Ellie: How can we celebrate it?
Scott:  Maybe we can light a candle.
— after some time —
E: We didn’t celebrate it.
S: Because we don’t have candles.
E: We could’ve bought candles! They won’t magically appear just because we need them!
S: But it’s already too late anyway. The holiday’s over now.
E: No, we’re behind Nepal. They celebrate it before us. The holiday’s not yet over here.
S: Oh, but you can’t eat meat. And we just ate meat.
E: Well, if we thought about this earlier, we could’ve avoided eating meat. And we could’ve bought candles while we were out.

So that was how our non-celebration of Tihar went. And Dashain and Tihar are multi-day holidays. It’s not easy to miss celebrating them, but it happened to us anyway.

It wasn’t completely zero for us. We did have dinner with a few Nepali friends on one weekend, and I guess that counted as our Dashain celebration. I at least wanted to do tika because that to me is an important part of these celebrations.

I felt bad for Scott because he really missed his family during Dashain, especially when he was looking at the pictures they sent him. I felt the same way at Christmastime last year, when I could see pictures of celebrations left and right but I am not part of any of it. It sucked. And I think celebrating the holidays wherever you are, in whatever way is possible, alleviates that feeling. But it also requires planning, and introspection, and conversations on what’s important to you, what’s non-negotiable, what can we do, what can we do away with. We didn’t do much of that this time around, but we’ll give it another go next time. God willing, we still have many years ahead of us for that.

How do you celebrate the holidays outside of your home country? Did you manage to continue observing them even when you married into another culture?


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