Living Abroad: Missing a Holiday (or More) Far from Home

Bonjour, mes amis! My family was on vacation in central Oregon earlier this week. Now that we've returned home, I love seeing my children spend long periods playing with their familiar playthings again. The old becomes new with absence!

Yesterday was a strange Thanksgiving Day for us. We celebrated with my family a day in advance, and we'll celebrate with my husband's family tomorrow, so our actual Thanksgiving Day was uneventful. It reminded me of Christmas 2004, when I was a university exchange student living in France. I spent that Christmas Eve in an inexpensive Paris hotel; my American boyfriend (now husband) and a friend had come to visit and travel Europe with me. We had airline tickets to leave for Prague the next morning. How strange it was to be in a tiny hotel room alone on Christmas Eve! And even stranger the next morning when we made our way to the airport on empty Paris streets and an automated Metro line. I recall stealing furtive glances at the one or two others we saw along the way, wondering what their story was and why they did not celebrate Christmas.

  View of the Louvre from the Seine

View of the Louvre from the Seine

For all of you who are away from your home country on a major holiday, my heart is with you. Know that you are never truly alone; that wherever home may be, you are there in the hearts of those who miss you.

Looking back, I consider it special to have been in France on Christmas. I may never again have the opportunity, and I wish I had taken advantage of it a bit more. I wish we'd taken more pictures of the snowflakes falling onto wet Parisian streets instead of taking shelter from the cold. I wish we had splurged on a yule log to share (the traditional French Christmas cake). I wish I had attended midnight mass at Notre-Dame de Paris instead of retiring to sleep.

  Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral and a Christmas Tree

Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral and a Christmas Tree

  Traditional Yule Logs (Buche de Noël) in a French Patisserie

Traditional Yule Logs (Buche de Noël) in a French Patisserie

But the experiences we had were certainly a gift, and I treasure the memories. In the days before Christmas, we toured the historic beaches of Normandy and enjoyed picnics of sausage, wine, bread, and other French staples. We were able to visit the UNESCO heritage site Mont St. Michel when her narrow streets were empty of the usual crowds. And in Paris, my boyfriend and I enjoyed ice skating on one of the temporary rinks outside a Paris city hall.

  Carriages on an empty Utah Beach, Christmas Eve 2004.

Carriages on an empty Utah Beach, Christmas Eve 2004.

  Mont St. Michel at low tide

Mont St. Michel at low tide

  Ice skating on a temporary Paris ice rink

Ice skating on a temporary Paris ice rink

We never know what opportunities may come, nor how long we will be in any location. Whether you are have moved abroad permanently or have a predetermined limit to your stay, I hope you can find delight in your situation. It's bittersweet, isn't it? However you define home, it is in living abroad that we seem most conscientious of the beauty and nature of this life. My thoughts are with you, my distant friends.