"Wait, you're not gonna be home for Christmas?" Nope. Nor Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or New Years either.
It's definitely strange, to think about all of the holiday traditions I've followed for the past 22 years, suddenly being disrupted by this one little (massive) decision to move across the world. Did I miss stuffing my face with mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving? Of course. Was I bummed to not decorate the tree with my family for Christmas? Obviously. Was it weird not ringing in 2022 with my best friends since middle school? For sure. But, would it have been worth it to pass up the experience of a lifetime just for the sake of normalcy? Absolutely not.
I'm no Grinch, but if I'm being completely honest, being away from home for the holidays really didn't bother me. So much of the holiday hype comes from past memories, looking forward to the things we can rely on happening the same way every year. Don't get me wrong, these are wonderful to have, but if home is people rather than places, then celebrations should be had regardless of where we are, as long as we have good company to make new memories with.
Holidays are celebrated differently all over the world, but especially in Thailand, and that certainly made them all the more fun:
Thanksgiving- Sooooo this one definitely looked more different than the rest. Not quite a holiday here, but still gave us lots of reasons to be thankful. We had to work a full day, and though there was no big feast, something still came out of the oven! Our boss' water broke at school and a holiday miracle was born! Even though November 25th will be just the birthday to them, she'll always be a Thanksgiving baby to us. For dinner, we decided to treat ourselves at one of our favorite restaurants with a Thai classic, chicken and rice. To be fair, I've never really liked Turkey anyway. Dessert was the best part though, because no holiday (or day in general) is complete without a 7/11 snack raid. Even after trading in the classic foods and traditions, I still ended the day with a full stomach and grateful heart.
Christmas Eve- Quite possibly my favorite Christmas Eve ever. This was our last day of school before the winter break, and it was anything but work! All the kiddos came dressed in their cutest holiday gear, and the school was set up with a tree and fireplace for them to hang stockings. We had a gift exchange and went all out for lunch- chicken nuggets and fries (the best gift my American soul could have ever asked for)! The best part of the day though, was the holiday show! We joined forces with our neighboring kindergarten school, and had six classes perform a dance to different Christmas songs. It was so much fun to watch not only the cuties onstage, but also the kiddos in the crowd supporting their peers! I was asked to emcee our show, and it was worth wearing a sweaty Mrs. Claus suit in the Thailand sun to get everyone excited! After school, we had a staff dinner with both schools at a beautiful restaurant on the water, and then spent the night singing karaoke with our teacher besties to ring in Christmas!
Christmas Day- I'll admit, not waking up to the excitement of Santa coming the night before was disappointing. It felt more like any old day than the most hyped up holiday in the United States. However, at this age, Christmas is a lot less about the presents, and a lot more about being surrounded by people you love. I may not have had my immediate family with me, but I had the new one that I made here. My co-teacher and her family were more than willing to welcome me into their home for the day, and it was just as warm & fuzzy as it would have been in New York. We laid around, talked, and ended the day with a 700 baht order from KFC. Might as well have been an American Christmas after all!
New Years- I'm convinced that this is the holiday that is fun no matter where or what the circumstances are, as long as you have your buddies by your side. You could have put my entire friend group in a box and we would have been grinning ear to ear while ringing in the new year. Of course, we had a bigger upgrade than a box, as we all traveled down south to the beautiful island of Krabi to celebrate. We dressed up NYE style in sparkles and hit the local town. Dancing the night away never fails, no matter what continent you're on. On New Year's Day, a bunch of us pooled together the last bits of baht from our previous paycheck and rented a pirate ship for the day. We sailed around to four local islands while sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and smiling. It's safe to say that 2022 started off with a splash!
Overall, the company may have looked different, the food menu was a little off, and the means of observing were brand new. But, despite being over 8,000 miles away from home, the holidays were still the same at their core. Regardless of the things that changed, all of these days were filled with love and laughter, and to me, that's definitely a reason to celebrate.