Confessions,  Living Abroad

Holiday Experience 2020 (Claudia)

Dear Dennis,

Even though our holidays have been varied over the years, this year it is a first for all of us. Because of the ongoing health pandemic and the travel restrictions in many countries, we are definitely feeling that this year is a bit strange and, if we had to guess, you are probably feeling the same. That is why we wanted to share about our holiday plans and how, despite the differences that we see this year, we are striving to make sure the year is bright. We truly believe that we all have much to be grateful for and hope you can also have a joyful holiday season to finish the year on a good note and start 2021 off on the right foot.

If you want to see Dani’s take on the holidays, see this post.


Claudia’s Take on the 2020 Holidays

I am not going to lie and tell you that I have lots of strict holiday traditions in my family because we barely have anything that could be considered a tradition. I was raised with mixed religious parentage which meant a combination of Jewish and Protestant celebrations. Both of my parents liked the meanings behind the celebrations these religions have this time of year, so I got to sample a little bit of both. For example, I have childhood memories of lighting the menorah and picking out a Christmas tree. However, years were always liable to change considering all my extended family lived far away and traveling to visit them was often the highlight of our holiday experience.

Today the holidays themselves don’t really hold much meaning for me and the biggest thing I associate this time of year with is my family. Our celebrations continue to be unusual on occasion (like the year my brother and I flew to meet our parents in Costa Rica for two weeks) and sometimes we don’t manage to meet at all. Luckily, because they are not the specific celebrations of Hanukkah or Christmas that bring us together, we find the flexibility to celebrate our family time in different ways.

At the same time, it has now been a year that I won’t have met my family and that is unusual for us. This time last year I was flying to meet my family after having seen them all at least once in Helsinki, a couple of times in Spain, and several times abroad for different events. While we are used to seeing each other more often than we have this year, we just haven’t been able to justify it this year with everything else that is going on. And, as much as we would like to meet up soon, we don’t know when that will be possible. For me, not being able to see my family, especially after being apart for so long, is quite difficult.


Keeping the Holidays Bright

Despite everything that is going on, I want to recognize that I personally chose not to travel back to Spain for Christmas because travel is one of the things I am feeling especially vulnerable about right now (something I talked about more in this post). I feel like that decision is the right one for me and my family at this moment in time and I don’t regret it at all. That doesn’t make the whole holiday experience any easier to deal with though, so I am looking for small ways to make the days more enjoyable. These are some of the things I am doing:

1.) Spending time with friends and family

One of the big things I am doing this year is making lots of time for friends and family. Whether it is virtually or in person (something that is still allowed in Helsinki), I am taking time every day to meet with one or two friends. Sometimes that means going for a long walk or having a two hour Skype call but by spending time with people I care about, I am able to stay true to what the holidays mean to me.

I feel very lucky that here I am still able to meet up for lunches or go for coffee and even plan to have Christmas dinner with friends, although I must admit I do it outside of peak hours and do not really hug people like I normally would. In addition, connecting with people around the world is something I have a lot of practice with, so I feel like I am just amping up my connection a bit more. (If you are finding it hard to find times and ways to connect with loved ones abroad check out this post for our top tips.) For me, the effort is worth it though when you can see a friendly face and a glowing smile, even if it is only through a screen.

2.) Making time for me

This year has been rough and even though I don’t have something super specific to complain about, I am still feeling my energy drain as we get to the end of the year. That is why I am making sure that I have a lot of time in my agenda to go slow and rest when I need it. There are so many great projects that I am seeing going on right now, from productivity to diy things but I am waiting a little bit before committing to something new.

And, I want to share with you, that the one thing I want to commit to in 2021 is not something that will necessarily make me better or more successful, but something that is about me. I decided to do a sixty day Sanctuary Challenge which is all about our lives, homes, minds, and bodies. If you want to join me in this challenge, even just for one day, it is absolutely free and I feel like there is no better gift to give yourself. You can check out more here.

3.) Indulging in little traditions

Finally, despite the fact that I said my family doesn’t really have holiday traditions, there are a couple of things I am indulging in. Firstly, latkes—a typical Jewish potato pancake that is eaten during Hanukkah with (in my family at least) homemade applesauce and sour cream. I know many countries have similar foods but this year I really wanted to connect with my family heritage and make them as close as I could to what I remember from the past. I got a recipe from my aunt and have made them twice now! Hopefully, this traditional food will be shared more than once a year in the future.

Secondly, and this might be horribly stereotypical of me, I am really enjoying a cup of black tea with milk to remind me of Christmases in the UK. I remember as a kid having tea in bed with my Nana and, as we got older, in the mornings around eleven, after long, cold walks, or at any other time when it would feel nice to warm up. These days my milk intolerance prevents me from drinking actual milk, but I am enjoying going through the different plant-based drinks here in Helsinki and making myself a warm pickmeup.

What are you up to this year? How have your traditions changed?

Sending you lots of good vibes, however you are celebrating, and wishing you the most wonderful season.


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