I’ve written before about being away from home at Christmas. In Turkey, Christmas time was the worst time of year, because I missed my family and I missed Christmas in general. There were no Christmas lights, or markets or reminders of the holiday season anywhere. Even at the school I worked in we couldn’t even mention Christmas. Then I moved and in Budapest, I loved Christmas time because of the atmosphere that I had missed so much. In Budapest and in central Europe in general, they do Christmas markets, mulled wine, and Christmas lights line the all the streets. There were chocolates and marzipan and decorations everywhere, and I never got tired of going to the markets for some mulled wine and lángos. Not only was Budapest so Christmassy, but the school I worked at was incredible, and we celebrated Christmas both in school and after work all together.
Now here I am Taipei, sitting at home on Christmas day, reflecting on Christmas time here. And honestly, it doesn’t even feel like Christmas. Not in the same way. Perhaps it’s the weather, or the greenery all around us, or perhaps I’m just more prepared now for the lack of Christmas, but it doesn’t feel quite so sad to be here for Christmas. People celebrate the holiday here, but not enough to merit a day off, so I’ll be headed to work later in the day, but at least here I’ll be able to use Christmas stickers and tell the kids to have a Merry Christmas. There are reminders of the holiday here as well; there are Christmas lights up around town, and big, bright Christmas trees downtown.
However, despite the lights and the colors of Christmas, there seems to be a hollowness to it. They’ve put up trees, and they have Christmas decorations in shops and restaurants, but it doesn’t feel like Christmas; it feels a little too commercial. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not religious or spiritual in any way, and Christmas means nothing in that respect to me, but there is still a tangible atmosphere that I love about Christmas that just isn’t here. Sure, people might say they celebrate, the kids get gifts, but it really is still just another day of the year here.
Nonetheless, this hasn’t discouraged me this year, and I’ve appreciated the neon Christmas trees, Christmas songs in restaurants, and over the top lights! I think perhaps this casual Christmas atmosphere coupled with the temperature and greenness has made me more casual about the festivities as well; instead of being sad that I’m not with family, I’ve had Christmas cocktails under neon lights, danced with drag queens at a Drag Christmas event, and will have a Christmas dinner later tonight at a pub with the new family I’ve found here; and I’m sure I’ll look back on those cocktails and Christmas drag photos and I’ll be so happy to have spent this time the way I did.
Sitting here now thinking about the past Christmases, at home and abroad, and about where I am now, I’m struck with an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness. The places I’ve lived haven’t always been festive and I haven’t always been to thankful at the time to be far from home, but right now I’m thankful for the people I have here, that will spend this warm green Christmas with me, and for all the people over the past several years who have made the holidays what they were. I’m reminded now of the Christmases spent in Turkey, with all my friends from all over the world who came together to bring a little bit of their home to a Christmas dinner at my house in Üsküdar, or with the family I lived with who celebrated the holiday just for my sake. I’m thankful for the family I found in Budapest and the Christmassy dinners we had, and the times spent drinking mulled wine together at the markets. We had Christmas parties and put up Christmas lights and drank an incredible amount of mulled wine last year, and I couldn’t be more thankful for those times. And here I am, another Christmas away from Canada, with a new group of people that I love and I’m so happy that my life has taken me to this place, that I’ve had the privilege of knowing so many wonderful people along the way, and sharing so many wonderful Christmas memories with so many people.
So despite missing my family back home, and the lack of genuine Christmas here, Christmas away isn’t a disappointment. I’ll always miss my family in Canada at this time of year, and I can’t wait to go home for to see them, but this Christmas I’ve come to realize how special all these Christmases away have become. So thank you all to have made all my Christmases what they were, and Merry Christmas to you all!