With the holiday season comes a question I’ve never asked me, but that seems to worry many people who travel for the first time. Or who simply like routine too much to imagine to put it aside.
“Spending Christmas away from your home and your family, is it not difficult?”
We can also adapt the question for New Year’s Day and my birthday. Depending on the day that is of most importance to you (I hope my birthday is way above all the others), you get a question that is very likely to make sense.
In 2009, during my first “Christmas abroad” in New Zealand, I was really excited. For me, it meant a lot. It meant autonomy and independence. A significant distance. The “I make my own way”, you know. There were some things I wanted to distance myself from, and the huge symbolism of Christmas was perfect for that.
Over the years, all these elements I was “fleeing” have disappeared, leaving room for a different an interesting aspect, more about “research”. “Research” or “thirst for learning”, to be more precise. Those meaningful days like Christmas or my birthday are, when spent without the people who were always there for these moments, full of micro-answers.
Answers to questions like “who would I want to call today?” or “what will I do for my birthday, since I’m in Istanbul instead of Sherbrooke, Canada?”
This year is my fourth Christmas abroad, away from all the families and homes that defined the 21 other holiday seasons.
It’s also my third in a row.
And no, it’s not difficult. It’s actually great!
But if I still love spending this time of the year abroad, it’s now about the Christmas celebrations themselves. When Christmas approaches, I can’t help it but imagine what would these days and evenings be if I spent them in Quebec. I imagine the tables covered with homemade dishes, the untouched snow reflecting a dark sky full of stars, children laughing and warming up the atmosphere.
Above all, the longing to meet people again.
This moment on the doorway before entering. Smiling at the idea of an evening dedicated precisely at those people who are on the other side of the door. Enjoying the “we” at the table.
When Christmas comes, now, I imagine all that. I leave my mind wander freely through all these memories, I see what matters most to me at Christmas – or any time – and what I really miss. What would make me happy if I could spend this Christmas in Quebec.
Still, I would not spend Christmas anywhere but here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Because in the meantime, the symbolism of the Holiday season is at work everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Spain, China or New Zealand: memories happen faster. Friendships get built more easily, and stronger. The moments are growing like magic, and remain engraved in us. And this is priceless.
And when I return home, to Quebec, I will bring with me these new eyes to enjoy Christmas quite differently. Eyes that appreciate Christmas in a whole new way, more sensitive, focused on those people who would have truly enlightened this day.
A simpler and refined appreciation.
Until then, I will continue to send postcards to wish you a good holiday season. This is not as eventful as a whole night spent with those we love, but if you can read between the lines, you know that it means a lot.
Merry Christmas to all!