Hannah Drake

Away from Home for the Holidays

LifeHannah DrakeComment

I've mentioned before that Luke and I decided last year to alternate Christmases in the US and the UK. Since he visited me in Colorado last year for Christmas and New Years, we're staying here in the UK for Christmas this year and we'll be in the States for Christmas again next year. (And so on.)

I'm not sure if it's the holiday season, or a six month hump, but lately I've been more homesick than I was when I first moved and I'm really missing the familiarity of the Christmas I've come to know for the last 27 years.

In 2010, I was working for Walt Disney World and unable to return to Colorado for Christmas, so I stayed in Orlando and spent the holiday with my then-boyfriend and his family. It was without a doubt the worst Christmas I've ever experienced. I think until you spend time outside of your own traditions, away from your own family, you don't realise how incredibly personal--or familial--the holidays are. There are so many ways to do things throughout the entire season and no two families are alike. The time you wake up on Christmas morning, how you open presents, what you'll have for dinner, who you spend your time with, all of those things will vary from family to family and it can be really difficult to find comfort in the midst of someone else's traditions. 

See, what didn't happen was his family asking me how they could incorporate any of "my Christmas" in with theirs. Instead, they carried on with their usual holiday. On Christmas morning, the three boys and my ex-boyfriend's friend who had been living with them for a while, went downstairs to find presents extending two or three feet from under the tree. I had honestly never seen so many gifts in my life! When everyone found a spot on the couch in their PJs, the boys just started ripping into the gifts and tossing the contents aside to tear into the next one. Every single gift under the tree was from the parents to the boys and they got all the latest in technology (I think the iPhone 3 was a big deal that year), new clothes, and more. Everyone then retreated to their own rooms where they had computers, TVs, and gaming systems to play with their new stuff by themselves. Later, their mom's friend came over to make dinner. She cooked a turkey, mashed potatoes, and some bread (I don't even think there were any vegetables or anything not beige), everyone came down to grab a plate and then hurried back up to their rooms, closing the door behind them. By the end of the day, I was just sad. Everything about the day felt like the worst qualities of Christmas: greed, selfishness, consumerism. I couldn't see any love or gratitude and it seemed like most of the joy was coming from being away from everyone else with your own stuff. It was just awful.

I can certainly appreciate that people do things differently than my family, but my hope would be that there would still be love at the centre of the holiday. Everything about that Christmas was in stark contrast to what I had hoped it would be. I was left missing my own family more than ever, wishing I had been able to do things more closely aligned with what I'm used to: Taking turns opening gifts so you can see what people got. Having a Christmas breakfast together and later a Christmas dinner (usually with extended family). Watching movies or playing games, just simply spending time with people. 

When Luke and I have talked about Christmas in the past--which was a prompt in a number of the premarital materials we've used--it sounds like our Christmases are more similar and we're also excited to start our own traditions and make the holidays what we want them to be together for our own family. A friend recently told us about couples she knows who spend Christmas apart because neither will be away from their family and we have no interest in doing that. I'm excited to spend Christmas here in England and with Luke's side of the family because the most important thing to us is that we're together.

It occurred to me the other day while I was baking that the reason I've been so into Christmas this year with activities, social media posts, and more, is so that I can have control of it and that means not letting the homesickness seep in because I'm too busy at the Christmas Market, watching a cheesy Hallmark movie, or baking seasonal treats. So sorry if you follow me on Instagram and are sick of the Christmas posts. In the comments, I've been called the Queen of Christmas and I've been told that I'm getting people in the holiday spirit, but mostly I'm just trying to keep myself in the spirit. There's something magical about Christmastime, I think. For me, it's a time of joy and love, and this year I'm trying to prove that those feelings aren't confined to my family's house back in Colorado, that they can come with me, wherever I go.