Welcome to the second run of the #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl hosted by Tala Ocampo and Didi of D for Delicious. This December we talk about our Christmases around the World and the similarities and differences the holidays bring. Please see the end of the post for other #TrailingSpouseStories.
My memory of the Holidays and Christmas is marked by the kids. “BK” (Before Kids), my husband and I would go on a 24-hour food binge with our four Christmases: His dad’s side for Christmas eve, my mom’s side for Christmas morning, my dad’s side for Christmas lunch, and his mom’s side for a late Christmas lunch all through the evening. It was like that even when we were still dating. I don’t know how we managed to keep all that food down.
But after the kids came, suddenly I found something totally different about my Christmas, each and every year.
2008 was our first Christmas as parents, and our first Christmas in Chapel Hill. Sam was three weeks old, and so we didn’t fly home for the Holidays. Christmas mass was Sam’s first trip out of the house, and my husband got her a Christmas dress — which she only wore once.
It was the quietest, simplest Christmas I ever had.
In 2009, we flew back to Manila for the holidays for Sam’s very first Manila Christmas. And though the 4-Christmas spectacle was in full swing, Sam and I were severely jetlagged, so we slept through most of the festivities.
I didn’t know it then, but it was also my Mama Mia’s last Christmas on this earth. Thankfully we got to capture our “four generations of women” in a photo.
2010 was the year of Christmas weddings where Sam was asked to be a flower girl at least five times (Gasp! Dreams do come true! ;)). However, we couldn’t make it to any of them! I was pregnant with Jamie — which also meant, it was my first Christmas pregnant. Can you imagine the maternity winter clothes I had to buy. Can you imagine the layers I had to put on when I could barely see my feet on a regular basis!
I was too pregnant to fly, so instead my husband treated us all to the beautifully breathtaking Biltmore estate for Christmas Eve. This was the first Christmas I spent traveling.
The next day we drove up to Virginia to see family, and experienced our first Christmas snow day. Sam was already two at the time, and was happy to be the recipient of all the presents under the tree.
In 2011 we flew back to Manila once more, this time for Jamie’s first ever Christmas.
As you can see, the photos stopped being photos of us, and more of the two sisters (in matching outfits no less!).
That was quite the stressful holiday too because we rushed Sam to the hospital days before Christmas due to an upper respiratory tract infection.
In 2012, we flew home to Manila “for good” and spent our first Christmas in our new apartment. Sam and Jamie performed their first Christmas programs in their respective schools, and I learned just what a stage mom I was.
2013 is what I like to call the “adjustment year”, when things were slowly falling into place here and there. For the first time in forever (cue Frozen), we were FINALLY adjusting to a Manila routine. The Christmas programs ran as expected in both schools. The kids were older so they could better handle the “four Christmases”. They still got a ton of presents, and were finally able to maximize their Christmas outfits.
The “new” this year was the holiday cheer brought about by Two Tots. It was crazy fun buried under all those stockings, what can I say.
This 2014, just as I thought I was getting the hang of a Manila Christmas routine, I find myself again with another first: Christmas in LA.
For someone like me who looks forward to predictability and routine, these last six Christmases have been a lot to take in. I spent almost three decades of my life with the same kind of Christmas rituals and the same kind of routine. Then each year after that, something stark and all too new just threw off the balance. Ninety-seven percent of the time,it was great and wonderful and I’m indeed thankful. But it doesn’t change the fact that it was all new and unexpected. So what else is there to do but re-build traditions and holiday preparations, and to learn from each thing every step of the way.
Like getting the kids involved in the Holiday preparations.
And bringing something to remind us of home.
And then of course, teaching the girls the true meaning of Christmas.
And maybe it’s because the last six years have each been so different that they’ve all stuck to me more than the Christmases of previous decades. It feels like parenting with a holiday flair, where no two days are the same, and no two children are the same! Each year brings about many surprises that, like children, teach you a life lesson. Learning to run with the new as well as holding on to a little bit of the old.
Somewhere in all that chaos, there is a certain familiarity and a semblance of knowing that each year will be just the same. It doesn’t matter how many firsts each year brings your way.
Check out the other #TrailingSpousesstories by clicking on the links here:
Didi’s story on D for Delicious : How Christmas abroad started out tearful, but turned tearless after some time.
Yuliya’s story on Tiny Expats: Their journey and experience of the winter holidays in 6 countries.
Abigail’s story on Cuddles & Crumbs : A look back at Christmas and family traditions.
Tala’s story on Tala Ocampo: Their first Christmas abroad in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with the birth of their first child.
Marie’s story on D is for Delicious: How Christmas celebrations change with the times, and the one thing that keeps it the same.
Glendale’s story on G’s Kandy Krush: Her first Christmas in Sri Lanka with her husband and 2 sons.
Third’s story on Pinoy in America: How Pinoys have successfully brought the Philippines’ best-loved Christmas customs and traditions to America.
Marc’s story on Fatherland, explaining how Christmas is different this year compared to past Christmases; and
Kristine’s story on Tala Ocampo where Mac shares her reflections on spending Christmas away from home for 15 years.