Living abroad – abroad abroad, not as in “studying abroad for a semester” kind of abroad – is an adventure which comes with a mixed bag of emotions on most days. As I’m settling in a more permanent way of life in Ireland after years of back and forth, I am constantly reminded of how unsettling the whole process is (What do you mean a “PPS number”? Which phone company has the best coverage?). However, since the holidays seasons has kicked in – absurdly early if you want my opinion, the Elf on the Shelf has been hogging breakfast talks since mid-November in my host-family house – I've found myself even more unsettled than usual.
It’s not that I don’t feel at home here in Dublin; it very much has become so. Nor is it that I dislike the difference in traditions – on the contrary, I quite enjoy the extra effort put into celebrations here (top-notch gift wrapping, over-the-top jumpers, Christmas pudding... what’s not to like?). I wouldn’t say that this sudden sense of heightened rootless-ness comes from being abroad per se either. I plan to do my fair share of exploring Christmas markets and couldn’t be more excited at the idea of going ice-skating.
Rather, I think this all comes down to the actual meaning of Christmas: spending time together and reminiscing about the good times while looking forward to creating new memories. Isn’t that what the holidays – regardless of religious beliefs – are all about? Living away from home tends to make that difficult. No matter the amount of Face Times, my family and close friends are back home and it is very easy to let the happy sense of nostalgia that usually wraps itself around the lead-up to the 25th become plain old homesickness.
I count my blessings that this year I’ll be able to go home briefly to my family for the actual day but I know that sooner than later, my career or, more practically if it keeps going at this rate, stupidly expensive flight prices, will keep me here for the 25th. I might mention that my birthday is also on the 23rd of December. And my brother’s is on the 30th. I guess the Christmas period is sort of a big deal at home. So, the idea of not spending Christmas at home is a difficult one to fathom.
I’m very thankful for the support system I have here in Ireland. It is heart-warming to know that I can count on them to make the lead-up to Christmas as exciting as possible. To combat these Christmas blues, I’ve made a mission of creating new traditions with my loved ones here and plan to fully immerse myself within the Irish culture. In a sense, I’ve tried my hardest, even more than usual, to make Ireland my home.
So... I watched the Late Late Toy Show while drinking a cup of Bewley’s hot chocolate. I will spend the weekends making my own ornaments for my (tiny,tiny – ok... it’s more like a branch) Christmas tree and will attend my first ever Christmas pub table quiz next week.
My mother will be decorating the tree without me this year. I will jokingly tell her that I am dreading coming home to see what's been made of it but really, inside, missing out on this simple tradition makes me a tiny bit sad. It is also highly likely that a few of my Grandma's bakes will be eaten without me. But I also get to plan my family's gifts without having them snooping around (each year!), and more importantly, I get to experience Christmas the Irish way and create the brand new memories anyone living abroad so badly craves.
I’ll be home for Christmas, yes. But I know that a part of me will be missing Ireland – my home away from home - on Christmas day too.