Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holiday Challenge #1: Christmas

When you live abroad, you miss a lot of things from home during the holidays, but you recreate, reminisce, and make new traditions. It's a chance to evaluate what traditions are important to you, and which ones you want and can do now that you're in a different place. If you're lucky like me, you'll have family who will be there for you, even when they can't do it physically. While I can't gather with them and have a feast, I am always excited to see the package from my mom and set up my Christmas tree with the presents from America.
Christmas is largely commercial here in Japan with its own new takes on traditions. Japanese people go on dates and eat cake and fried chicken on Christmas. They decorate small trees and sometimes give presents, but usually only to their children or sweethearts. Decorated houses can be seen here and there, if you happen to have ambitious neighbors willing to pay high electric bills.
This week I was working on putting up my own illumination: my Christmas tree. My cheap white tree had gotten discolored, so I was a bit excited to go buy a new and bigger one with my husband, thus laying the groundwork for our own holiday traditions. At the nearby home store, they had trees of various sizes, lights, and sets of colorful ornaments. We made our purchases and set up the tree in our living room with carols playing in the background. It looked marvellous and cheerful, the lights having just about any sort of twinkle setting you could imagine. But something was missing.

My family's tree at home wasn't a fashionable, store-bought tree. It was a collection of memories gathered over the years in the form of mismatching ornaments. I remember these little wooden blue birds I loved to put on the tree as a kid, and the personalized apple I received from my first grade teacher. There were candles I made at school, and fragile blown glass ornaments received as gifts. Even the last ornament I bought in America, a goofy pineapple in reference to the TV show Psych, had a special place in my heart.
Looking at my Japan tree, I felt it was a sad shell of a tradition I had unknowingly loved dearly. Here it was my first Christmas married, year 1 of making my own family rituals, and all I did was buy some generic decor. I decided to make a commemoration ornament of our first Christmas together, and since I lacked the ability to easily buy such a thing, I set out to make it. I decided to make it simple, so I sketched something out and turned to my sewing table. I didn't unleash my Martha Stewart elegant craft skills as much as I DIYed something out of existing materials. The result was this:

While it doesn't look like much now, maybe someday the hubby and I can look on this ornament and smile.

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