Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day and Christmas Traditions

While most of you Americans are headed back to work today, the UK is celebrating Boxing Day. The British Commonwealth basically traded Christmas Eve for the day after, so while the grocery stores and businesses were open for December 24, they are mostly shut down today.

I’ll never forget my very first ‘Boxing Day’. In 2004, I was visiting my parents in Nigeria for the holidays and on the day after Christmas we headed to the beach for some relaxation.
When we got home we had several messages from concerned family and friends. They knew we went to the beach and they knew there was a Tsunami that wiped out several Boxing Day celebrants on the coasts of Asia and Africa.

Fortunately, our outing was on the Western rather than Eastern coast of Africa. The damage was thousands of miles from us but I couldn’t help but feel like we had dodged a bullet. It could have easily been otherwise. My dad could have been stationed in Indonesia rather than Nigeria. The earth could have moved in the Atlantic rather than the Indian Ocean. So on every Boxing Day since then I’m re-hit with a gratitude for my life and a remembrance that at any moment it can be swiped from me.

I’m grateful that Jonathan has the day off. For one thing, he needs time to recuperate after all of the Christmas festivities we’ve enjoyed over the past 2 days. Also, it’s our second gloriously sunny day in a row which goes so far in giving us a good attitude despite being far from our families during this holiday season.
I only cried like 6 times yesterday, so all in all I think I’m handling it like a champ. Jonathan would say I’m handling it like an irrational crazy person, but crazy is in the eye of the beholder.
Honestly the hardest thing about Christmas as an expat is altering your expectations. Instead of dwelling on the traditions we’re missing out on, we’re trying hard to focus on creating new traditions, while attempting to incorporate all the feasible ones from back home into our own routine. Here’s a list of my favorite family traditions and how we’re making do over here in the UK.

1) Reading the gospel retelling of Jesus’ birth. Hey, we have a bible over here. So Jonathan has to read in place of my Dad, but the words still bring the same joyful meaning.

2) Baking a birthday cake for Jesus. A cake is a little much for the two of us to consume in the Messiah's honor, so instead I made Jesus some Christmas bark for his 2012th birthday 
3) Going to a movie on Christmas day. We had other plans yesterday, so we’re making it a Boxing Day movie instead. We’re going to the 4:40 feature of Life of Pi later this afternoon with some displaced American friends who happen to have this same tradition with their family back home.

4) Opening one present on Christmas Eve. We still did this with the two of us.
My new running watch, a gift from Bailey girl:)
5) White Elephant Gift Exchange. I did this with my girlfriends in Aberdeen and it was such a success. We’ll surely make it an annual tradition.
6) Monkey bread! This is my all-time favorite Christmas morning breakfast. It’s made with canned biscuits which are nonexistent in Scotland. I improvised with making biscuits from scratch and instead of a whole loaf I just made mini muffins.
They weren’t exactly the same but they satisfied the need. I plan on writing a separate blog post on my holiday recipes so look forward to that.

7) Handing out a smack down during a girls vs boys game of Trivial Pursuit. We didn’t have Trivial Pursuit so instead we handed out a smack down during a girls vs boys game of Taboo. We also played some charades, UNO, and BINGO over the past few days which curbed my competitive cravings.
8) Mario Cart tournaments.
Jonathan and I finally set up our wii this past week simply for this purpose and we have been having fun honing our driving skills. I’ve gotten much better since I now realize that for the game they drive on the left hand side of the road. No wonder I was so awful before!

There are still traditions that we can’t replace:
- Watching my nephews open their presents on Christmas morning.
- Hitting the day after Christmas sales with the women while Jonathan plays a round of golf with the men.
- Enjoying my grandmother’s sugar cookies which I can’t seem to replicate no matter how hard I try.
- Seeing extended family and taking pictures of every possible family combination my mother can think of.
What are some of your favorite family traditions during the holiday season? We could use some help coming up with new ideas of how to make this time a special one for our itty bity family of four.


  1. Here is a tip for the photo thing. Tell your nephew to bring g
    His girlfriend so every family member can be in the BIG photo.

  2. We missed you to and Dad only cried twice we all missed you and sounds like you are making some new traditions for your itty bitty family of 4. We opened most gifts Christmas Eve instead of Christmas and we didn't go to a movie this year but I bought The Odd life of Timothy Green and fell asleep 20 minutes in. Will finish it today. We will all come up with new traditions. The monkey bread was awesome and in your honor along with mashed potatoes. None left of either sorry.

  3. We always play games too. When I was a kid, we would form two teams, and my pappaw would pass out little plastic guns that lit up when you pulled the trigger. One team would stay in a room, and the other team would hide throughout the house with all the lights off. Sort of like laser tag. It was always so fun. We always have eggnog and watch A Christmas Story since they play it all day in the States. I missed that, so we downloaded it on iTunes. :o)