12 April 2009

let's celebrate

Happy Easter!

I find it very odd to be celebrating holidays when the world around me isn't. This is true for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter as well as smaller, silly days like Groundhog's Day and St. Patricks's Day. There is a communal spirit that, for me, is lacking. The air is not full.

It might seem like this is an ideal opportunity to cast aside the commercialism of these holidays and focus on their true meaning. There are no Cadbury bunny ads, no one is buying Easter hats and dresses and there is no competition for the biggest basket. But, there is a shared spirit of anticipation that is also missing. It's a little lonely.

It makes me wonder what I'll do when d2b is home. Delaying and celebrating Easter and Christmas on an orthodox calendar (which I could do for Easter since it changes every year anyway but don't think I could give up December 25 as my Christmas) doesn't really solve the problem. Those holidays just aren't CELEBRATED here. They're observed by some, but the spirit of celebration, for me, is lacking. These are important holidays to me and need to be celebrated--joyfully, wholeheartedly and expansively.

TCK's (third culture children) often have difficulties with holidays. They've been told about them, and they've celebrated facsimiles of them with their immediate families and their ex-pat community, but they haven't experienced the "real" holiday that they're parents are trying to recreate. Having marshmellows for the sweet potatoes becomes an end unto itself and not a fond reminder of past holidays spent with family. I don't like either sweet potatoes or marshmellows, but when I'm planning Thanksgiving here in Russia, I know that is something important to include for my ex-pat friends. Even if none of us eats them, passing the dish untouched is part of our holiday experience. We know that Grandma loves them and that they belong on the table.

I think it's a little like the forced nostalgia those of us in the baby bust generation experienced growing up watching television shows like Happy Days and The Wonder Years. We were presented with a sentimental view of a time we'd never experienced.

But my little one(s) have extra obstacles. How do I find ways to celebrate holidays that they know nothing about? . How do I create traditions (because traditions and rituals are important anchors) that are celebrations and not recreations? It's something I think about. I suppose, to a certain degree, it will be like teaching my class about the way people celebrate around the world. It will be fun and interesting the first few times. The emotional attachments and the traditions will just have to grow over the years.

Flying back to the US to celebrate each holiday is not the answer for me. Firstly, because in the first year or two we're sticking close to home. I think disrupting life to be thrust, jetlagged, into a new culture with new people is not the way to build a family or build traditions. I think it would just be stressful for all of us. And, secondly, I am so ready to NOT be travelling on holidays. As a singleton, I'm the one who is expected to make the rounds. And, sometimes it's nice. But sometimes I just want to stay home and make my own holidays.

Whatever answer I come up with, and I'm sure it will evolve and change, I am very much looking forward to being the holiday-maker for me and d2b. I can't wait for us to celebrate together.


Rachael said...

I picked up some cadbury eggs for you yesterday. I will smuggle them in my suitcase (along with some brown sugar) for you and leave them with Tamara for you to claim next time you're in Moscow.

You have some great holidays ahead of you, and you 2 (or 3) will just have to create your own traditions.

Tami said...

You'll do a great job of creating your own traditions and memories no matter what you decide. Happy Easter to you! :)

Annie said...

I was writing such a long response....I thought, "I'll respond in a post!" And I will, too, first chance I get.

Let's just say - I really empathize.

Jane and Jim said...

So sad to read this...
Happy Easter to you!
I hope you get your babies soon.

J. said...

"It might seem like this is an ideal opportunity to cast aside the commercialism of these holidays and focus on their true meaning."

That summed our my experiences in Russia in general. Life is simpler, and without the commerialism.

Raising now, for all intents and purposes, my second generation of children, I find myself wiser. This time I around I realize the only "real" holiday traditions I need, are the ones that work for us. I no longer feel the need to conform to what others tell me a holiday should be. Yep, this time around, I'm enjoying holidays a whole lot more!

Holly said...

The commercialism is horrible, isn't it? We agreed no greeting cards this year but we did fall prey to the candy and gift buying. Granted I've been looking for a reason to give Grace the trike and Easter seemed as good a day as any.

Commercialism and really the lack of what the day means was never more evident to me than today at the egg hunt, which I will describe in detail on my blog. I pictured the ending scene in Steel Magnolias, but it was more like something out of Braveheart. Never again. I'll take my quaint little small town Easter with family and church any day.

As for traditions, the one I really like the idea of is taking a photo doing exactly the same thing, in the same pose, in the same place (if possible) year after year.

We, too, pass the sweet potatoes around the table and no one eats them. But it's tradition!

Tina in CT said...

Can't you celebrate holidays with your American friends?

Won't you be moving back home within two years?

I personally love sweet potatoes with marshmellows.

Calico Sky said...

This post made me cry on so many levels, it is easier now living in England (compared to Asia) but it is still different and I still wonder if things like Thanksgiving will be a fond memory for my kids vs. something silly mum did.

I think one of the things I've noticed about families lead by single parents is that they become very good at making their own traditions that feel right for them & their kids. That is a good thing.

It sounds like you are contemplating being there for the long haul? I want you to know I think you have incredible strength in your character and I have no doubt you'll be the mum your daughter needs.