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My First Christmas Abroad

My first Christmas abroad. And also, my first Christmas away from my family. My first Christmas without my Mom and Dad, ever. My first Christmas without my sisters since 1994 (the year they were born). My first Christmas not attending/ kind of helping to host the best Christmas party in the whole entire world-  my parent's annual Christmas party that's been going on for more than THIRTY years.

Writing that out makes me tear up.

I'm not complaining. I love being here. The Christmas markets in Germany are incredible. But I'm a nostalgic person. Christmas time always makes me feel like a kid. And it will be downright weird to not be home this year.

This year, we are starting new traditions, ones that involve drinking copious amounts of Glüwein and marveling at the fact that they can take this fairy tale town and actually make it more beautiful.

heidelberg-christmas-cup

We bought a wreath and have yet to even put up a Christmas tree (I usually do directly after Thanksgiving.)

helene-wreath-color

Boots // Leggings // Silver Floating World Ring // Gold Rings // Sweatshirt // Vest

wreath-helene-edited

But other things are different too. Instead of driving around to see the lights on houses – fairly impossible when you don't have a car, we bike to see the Hauptstrasse (main street) all decked out. They don't do Christmas decorations here like I'm used to. In Dallas, there is a neighborhood called Highland Park where each house is extravagantly decorated. Some houses even have life-size figurines carved out of wood. There's even one with a carousel playing Christmas music.

In Germany, the Christmas decor is more focused at the actual market or inside the home. Most houses do not display lights, maybe a wreath or two. But it doesn't just stop there. Christmas is celebrated on an entirely different day! This was news to me. December 6th (St. Nicholas day as I know it) is when Nikolaus comes to put gifts in your shoe. This is not to be confused with Santa Claus, or Weihnachsmann. No, instead, this is remembering Nicholas of Myra who dies on this day in 346 and who secretly gave gifts to children. They celebrate December 24th as Christmas AND they celebrate at night – unlike us, who open presents directly in the morning.

haupstrasse-christmas

This will be an especially tough day this year, especially for Michael. He grew up celebrating this day because of his German roots and also his Mom's birthday. This will be his first Christmas with his mom gone and I am hoping to take his mind off it by planning a little holiday getaway. He doesn't read this blog (it's fine, believe me!) so he won't find out.

Living here has given me such a different outlook on so many different things. Not having luxuries like a car or a Target nearby has helped me to really think about what I need or want. Maybe that sounds silly. But it's made me appreciate the little things.

Thank you all so so much for your support of this blog and my journey. Reading this means you are part of my story. I still wake up some days and forget where I am or how crazy this is. I am so grateful or your comments and questions and your support.

I never thought my life would look like this. But I it's been the absolute best adventure. Even if it means skipping Christmas at home.

 

Comments

I can’t imagine how tough it must be this year being so far from home for Christmas, and especially for Michael with his mom being gone. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the time you have together on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

That wreath is so pretty and I can’t wait to see your tree!

xx Kelly
Sparkles and Shoes

the first christmas away is the worst. it gets better though, promise. and a getaway sounds awesome. i planned one for my second or third christmas away and it was just the ticket. so fun and took my mind off it.

I can’t imagine spending Christmas without family – I’ve done it abroad with them, but never apart! I hope all the new surprises in Germany will let you forget about feeling nostalgic or lonely or whatever bad emotion you feel!
– Charmaine
http://charmainenyw.com

I remember so clearly my first Christmas away, it was so tough since in Iceland they also celebrate on the 24th and have a relaxed day on the 25th, which meant I was just hanging out while my whole family was together. It was tough, but part of the expat life and fun to learn new traditions. And I couldn’t agree with you more, the longer I live abroad the less things I need compared to when I was a few minutes away from Target. Sending you lots of expat love, a getaway trip will help make it easier to be away from home, exploring new places always does 😉

I completely understand how hard it is being away from family during the holidays. I moved to California almost 14 years ago. Although I visit home often, this will be the first Christmas I’ll be celebrating with family since moving. It’s hard to be away from my shop during this time of year, so I visit during the other months. The good thing is you get to start wonderful new traditions! Anything involving wine is always a good time. And, when you visit home, you’ll soak up every minute. Sending lots of hugs to you!

I’d be just like you – nostalgic about Christmases past, but looking forward to new traditions! Enjoy, Germany is INCREDIBLE.

http://www.katelately.com

Wow, that is so crazy. I think we’re so hidden under our rocks here and forget the rest of the world doesn’t do things exactly how we do. That’s so interesting and should be fun to witness first hand!

Aww I can only imagine how that must feel! I live abroad too but haven’t yet spent Christmas Eve & Day away from my family – even though I do get to witness London in the lovely festive period which I love! I hope your German Christmas will end up being lovely – at least it’s something a bit new! I’d love to visit it one day during December, it looks so beautiful! x

Laura // Middle of Adventure

I know that it’s not nearly the same thing as being half a world away, but the first and only Christmas that I wasn’t with my family was the toughest for me and I totally cried. I’m sure that it’ll be tough in Christmas Day, but I know that you’re having the time of your life! Keep on posting all all the snaps and pictures of the Christmas markets because I wish that we had something like that in the States!

Yes! My grandmother is German so we celebrate St. Nick and then have our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve. It always felt so normal to me until I had to explain to my boyfriend this year what St. Nick was and why he was getting a stocking nearly a month before Christmas! And I totally understand the car/Target thing, after living in Amsterdam for 6 months I was more grateful than ever to just jump in my car! Hope you’re loving Germany!

A trip for this year sounds just like what the doctor ordered.

I have almost stopped reading blogs altogether, but yours is one that I won’t let go! As I sit here at my desk, reading about your adventures in Germany, I am in awe at what it must be like to break away from the norm and experience a totally different lifestyle. I have traveled to Europe, and can only imagine what it would be like to actually get to live there for a time. Ya’ll will have an amazing getaway, I am sure…and I can’t wait to read all about it!

I can imagine how tough this is! I will say though, these pictures look like a post card. This is such a special time in your life!

I hear you Helene, but at least you’ll get to enjoy inventing a few new traditions!

I completely understand the way you feel about spending the holidays away from your family! I’m having a hard time living just half a country away from my home because every weekend is filled with family holiday activities! Christmas in Germany is so amazing though, I was there quite a bit when I was abroad because of family friends, and left on December 23rd so I was home just in time for Christmas! I got to partake in some of their traditions, and everyone is so friendly and welcoming!
Hope you have a great holiday season!
xoxo

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