traditions

An expat Christmas twice over, with some outdoor fun

Any expat will understand that Christmas (that is if it is a holiday that means something to you) is hard away from your home. This year, our first Christmas in Santa Barbara, California, USA, could have been twice as hard – particularly for my British husband and I. We spent our growing up years, till our early twenties, enjoying Christmas festivities in the UK. From then on, we adapted to life in New Zealand – and brought three New Zealand born daughters into the world. We learned a whole new way to celebrate Christmas, southern hemisphere style. We adopted new family traditions, whilst telling our children how we grew up celebrating Christmas in the winter of the UK. We spent hours on Skype with family half a planet away, celebrating Christmas morning, whilst we finished our Christmas Day and turned in for bed.

Christmas become one we celebrated around the BBQ and picnic table in the garden, rather than the dining table in a centrally heated home, and we quickly ditched vegetables for salad, turkey for chicken on the BBQ, and christmas pudding for pavlova. We kept the mince pies, exchanged glazed cherries for fresh strawberries and blueberries. We left Christmas dinner till the evening, and spent lunch at the beach (if the weather played in our favour – southern hemisphere summer in Wellington, New Zealand, isn’t as dependable as Bondi Beach, Sydney, or tropical Queensland, Australia!).

In New Zealand, with daylight beyond 9pm, we ditched fairy lights for mirror balls, that caught the sunlight, and decorated the garden with bunting and wind socks.

This year, in Santa Barbara, we were placed in between, with darkness at 5pm we could go all out on the fairy lights, but the blue sky of sunny California by day allowed us to enjoy some fun outdoors, by the pool and in the sunshine – a mix of both our known worlds.

Of course, family and friends really are what make for a merry Christmas, and we could have easily felt lost this year. Thankfully my dear folks come over from England, arriving a week before Christmas Day, to help aid the festive spirit and make us feel grounded in our new abode. Our children have thrived having the grandparents for extra company. The man of the house took time off. It has been all about family, fun and making the most of every moment. We felt in the present, not weighted down with ‘what might have been’. We dived in the swimming pool, soaked in the spa, lunched at the golf club and enjoyed the festive lights along Santa Barbara’s ‘State Street’.

Christmas in Santa Barbara 2013

Christmas has been wonderful this year, despite being away from our home in Wellington, New Zealand. We have felt more connected, in a strange way, being geographically placed between the UK and New Zealand. We have enjoyed the extended celebrations of being a good 20 hours behind New Zealand’s Christmas celebrations, 8 hours behind the UK and finally seeing in our own Christmas. Instead of making us feeling further away, the time differences have allowed us to watch the unfolding events of dear friends and family, and then enjoy our own. It’s been different, of course, but not difficult.

We are feeling so much more positive about what the New Year will bring. Change is never easy, but it brings unknown surprises, lessons and strengths. For everything we miss, we have gained. For everyone we miss, we are thankful for the modern day world keeping us connected and the memories of great times we’ve shared with them. For everything yet to be, we are more positive and feel stronger to adapt and be flexible. Bring on the New Year… which we are seeing in with my dear folks in the vibrant and beautiful city of San Diego!

Wishing you all the best for 2014 too and hope it brings with it positivity, good health, happy days and plenty of memorable moments.

Sarah xx

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Now go check out the outdoor fun that so many other wonderful folk have enjoyed over the past week….

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Feeling Festive | The Photo Gallery

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It’s been so many years since we’ve celebrated the festive season in the northern hemisphere. It took me well over a decade to adjust to celebrating in the southern hemisphere – and just when I thought I’d finally done it… I went and jinxed it! Spending Christmas in Santa Barbara is a wonderful ‘best of both worlds’ place to be. The days are always sunny, the days – of course, being in the northern hemisphere, are shorter, the evenings cooler, but rarely freezing, and the lights – everywhere – are beautiful.

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It gets dark at 5pm and with little wind, or inclement weather, outdoor decorations are able to be on display without risk of failure. It’s glorious to be out in the evening and enjoy the festivities, of which there are plenty. Just this weekend there was a Christmas Parade on Friday evening and a wonderful ‘Festival of Trees’, where Miss 3 was awe-struck to see Santa ice-skating. She also had a jolly good go at it herself, as well as decorating a beautiful stocking.

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Of course my heart is still in the two places I love – my birthplace and home of some twenty-three years – the U.K. – and my ‘adopted’ country and place that welcomed my three daughters into the world – beautiful New Zealand. I miss the beautiful red, flower of the Pohutukawa tree in New Zealand – it’s bloom always arriving to welcome Christmas and summer simultaneously, and the long days and light to savour celebrations at ease with my family and friends. My heart is also with my friends and family in England (though, admittedly, I have less of a desire to be there, in the frigid conditions of winter, where it’s dark at 3.30pm and the days quite often grey and overcast – at least with children in tow – however I could definitely enjoy some couple time with hubbie in the many gorgeous pubs and strolling the lit streets of London town!).

But despite my heart feeling forever torn, there is enough room for it to feel happy in Santa Barbara this year. We are blessed with the excitement of having my parents visiting from the UK to celebrate the festivities and a wonderful house to call home for a year. It’s easy to make it feel festive, with a few twinkly lights and some adornments to remind us of a summer Christmas and our roots in the U.K. There have been a few additions to mark our time here in the USA too… Mickey Mouse couldn’t help but make an appearance!

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Our lovely landlady here gifted us some decorative delights, including red flowers that tie in both the beautiful Pohutukawa of New Zealand and the poinsettia, one of my all time favourite Christmas flowers. Our lovely New Zealand neighbours, that recently visited us, sent a gorgeous poinsettia as a thank you, which brings us so much love and happiness.

And, the lights, everywhere, lining the streets and shopping malls, are totally magic. So with memories of our recent visit to a Christmassy Disneyland  and the company of our New Zealand friends, we are feeling ready to celebrate the festivities and welcome in 2014!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! xxx

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Linking up with other lovelies on the theme, ‘Feeling Festive’, here…

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Loving: A bunch of Kiwis doing Thanks Giving USA

With our NZ neighbours visiting us in our temporary home in the USA we had the perfect reason to celebrate and feast. So we spent a relaxed day at home, preparing the table, for a Thanks Giving feast. Young Miss 3 delighted in sticking cloves into oranges, Miss 10 made up some name-places for the table and we threw on our New Zealand ‘Pohutukawa’ table cloth for a touch of ‘Kiwiana’.

Thanks Giving table

The man of the house was the ‘Master Chef’ and cooked up a delightful feast. We all sat down and toasted to friendship, feeling very thankful for the opportunity to be together and share a meal.

Cheers!

In between the feasting there was the New York ‘Thanks Giving Parade’ screening on television in the morning and college American football in the afternoon, whilst the turkey was cooking. The children played in the pool and around the house, working up a good appetite for dinner!

And of course, we had to try a ‘pumpkin pie’ – which was actually delicious, served with ice-cream and cream. Yum!

A really lovely day, made special shared with friends and definitely a tradition to transport back to New Zealand with us – but as more of a ‘Harvest Festival’ celebration at the end of Autumn in New Zealand.

Loved it! Happy Thanks Giving!