As we get into the festive season, I have been reflecting on my relocation. I have been very fortunate to celebrate Christmas and holidays in Nigeria, Germany, and now in the US. The celebrations are very different, and my experiences have been diverse. Each country has provided me with things I enjoy and value during this season.
In this blog post, I will share my experience in the three countries I have lived in and some of my favorite memories.
What is important to me during the holidays?
As I start planning my Christmas celebrations this year, I have been thinking about the three things I'm really looking forward to.
Christmas in Nigeria
The sights and sounds of the holidays in Nigeria seem as if it was yesterday, although I haven't been there in 18 years. I still remember the excitement in the air as December progressed. The Christmas carols and events leading up to the holidays were filled with music and theatre plays. Growing up, with all the joy and excitement, also came some concern about if we will have something special for Christmas. Sometimes we were unsure if we would have the festive clothes we wore on Christmas day, let alone gifts.
My highlight during Christmas time in Nigeria was spending time with my extended family. My cousins were all in town; we enjoyed great meals together and built great memories. Christmas celebrations seemed to last longer when I was growing up in Nigeria. Till today, the delicious meals I cook during Christmas are inspired by what I enjoyed growing up.
Christmas in Germany
My first Christmas in Germany remains engraved in my memory. It was the first time I saw so much snow and low temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius. In addition to the extremely cold weather, this was the first time I spent the holidays without my family. It was very difficult to adapt to new traditions and culture.
Another major shock for me was that the 24th, which is Heilig Abend, is the main celebration day in Germany. For me, it felt like a day to prepare for Christmas, not to actually celebrate it. Honestly, this was something I never really got used to.
My favorite part of Christmas in Germany was going to the Weihnachtsmarkt, aka Christmas markets. They bring together the best regional snacks, meals as well as arts and crafts. Every year, I made it a point to visit the Christmas markets multiple times with family, friends, and coworkers. I miss the special sausages and fresh waffles a lot. The scent of winter spices reminded me of the special time of the year.
Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US
Interestingly as I write this post, we are on our way to spend Thanksgiving with family. Until I moved to the US about five years ago, Thanksgiving was a foreign concept to me. To be honest, it still comes as a surprise every year. It definitely feels good to have a long holiday weekend in November, and then four weeks later, we get another break. The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with songs and nice decorations.
Christmas in California is very different. One of my favorite parts is that the weather is beautiful and sunny in December. I have come to the realization that I really enjoy Christmas now. I believe it is mainly because I have my own family, and we are creating our lite Christmas traditions.
I have learned that I can influence how much I enjoy the holiday. The five things I remind myself of during this season include the following:
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How was Christmas while you were growing up or living in a different country?
What are your favorite holiday traditions?
What is one thing you'll do for yourself this Christmas?