One of the hardest things about being an expat is being far away from loved ones during special occasions. Being on the opposit side of the ocean from our families, at Christmastime, is difficult. But throughout our years in Belgium, Andrew and I have made new expat Christmas traditions as well as maintaining some of our Canadian ones.
I recently wrote about visiting the Brussels Christmas Market. This is certainly one of our favourite new holiday traditions. We grab a plate of oysters and some champagne and enjoy the lightshow on Grand Place. It’s especially fun to share this tradition with visiting friends and family.
I’ve often written that technology is an expat’s best friend. During the holidays this is definitely the case. To help us feel close to our families on Christmas day, we video conference using Skype. I’m able to see and chat with my Grandparents, who are both in their 90s, we can catch up with our parents and Andrew’s siblings and watch our little nephew grow up. Of course, it’s not as good as being there in person but it certainly helps.
We’ve also adapted some of our Canadian Christmas traditions to suit our expat life. We still get a real Christmas tree each year, granted it is much smaller than the one we used to have in Nova Scotia. I blame the tiny tree on the size of our small flat, but it actually has more to do with hauling greenery up 80 stairs. We still listen to cheesy Christmas music while we trim our tree. We’ve also downloaded a bunch of our favourite childhood Christmas movies, to enjoy in the evenings.
By far my favourite Christmas traditions revolve around food and our expat Christmases are no exception. The centrepiece of our Canadian Christmas table was always a huge roast turkey. It took some investigating to find good turkey in Belgium but each year I carry on this tradition. (FYI Jack O’Shea’s sells gorgeous Christmas turkeys.)
In addition to the bird, Christmas dinner isn’t complete without all of the trimmings. There must be cranberry sauce, gravy, roasted vegitables, and stuffing. I’ve experimented with different recipes over the years but one thing doesn’t change – like my mother and grandmothers before me, I always cook enough to feed an army.
Since we don’t have an army handy, we’ve taken to inviting any of our expat friends who remain in Brussels for the holidays, to share our dinner with us. This has become one of my favourite new Christmas traditions.
Over the years we’ve had fellow Canadians (including our sister who was able to join us from Canada last year), an Indian, a Brazilian and a Montenegrin. This year we will add a few Brits, a Scot and a Norwegian to the mix. The nicest thing about having other expats around during the holidays, is they bring with them their own Christmas traditions, to share with us.
Our expat Christmas traditions have become a fun blend of our old Canadian favourites and new Belgian and international experiences. We look forward to maintaining our newfound expat traditions for many years to come.
What are your favourite expat Christmas traditions? Have you kept your home country’s traditions or adopted new expat ones? Please share them in the comments below.
Looking for more resources for living abroad? Check out our Expat Resources page.
- Brussels Christmas Market :: Plaisirs d’Hiver
- Expat Christmas Traditions
- Our Top Christmas Markets in Belgium and Germany
- Christmas at the Château de Modave Castle, in Belgium
- Finding Christmas Cheer in Bruges, Belgium
- 3 Christmas Markets in Belgium Worth Visiting
- Christmas in Brussels, Belgium – Ice Magic Festival, Skyliner, Iceberg, and More