Another year has passed and the holidays are upon us yet again. Decorations, family, and food (lots and lots and lots of food) abound. It feels like we were just here, doesn’t it? It’s time for gatherings and reflecting on the past year. Despite our country of origin (or language we speak), one thing about the holidays remains the same: TRADITION (I think they say it better than I ever could). Whether you celebrate by going to a parade, watching “Elf”, or traveling to see family, it’s these traditions that we look forward to every year around this time. Coming from a large family, we always spend Christmas Eve with my dad’s family and Christmas day house hopping to visit all of my mom’s sisters and their families. Each Christmas night ends at our close family friends’ home, which is opened to everyone (literally everyone) looking to celebrate the holiday.  Besides my near comatose state after being force fed at six houses each Christmas (no complaining here, trust me. Nothing beats homemade Chaldean food), the feeling I remember most is looking forward to the traditions within the tradition. For instance, the day always begins with Auntie Samira’s pacha (a Chaldean dish made of tripe… breakfast of champions! Check out one of my favorite Facebook groups to learn more). As the day progresses, we always eat dessert at Auntie Ferial’s (cousin Jeanie’s famous sugar cookies) and see friends we probably haven’t seen since last Christmas at the end of the night at Auntie Lamia’s house. That night we head home, full, tired, and happy, thinking how far away next Christmas seems.

This year, however, things are going to be a little different. When my cousin Anthony’s job was transferred from Houston, Texas to Bangkok, Thailand for the year, my cousins and I knew this was an opportunity for the ultimate vacation. Figuring we would have the most time off around the holidays, we decided around May that we would be spending Christmas in Thailand, no matter what. Now mere days away from our trip, I’ve only just begun to think about how different the holidays are going to be this year. No Christmas mass (shh..don’t tell my mom!), no opening presents by the tree on Christmas morning, and no family visiting on Christmas Day. However, because of the traditions that have been instilled in us throughout the years, we are going to create our own makeshift Christmas. I made sure to get some small gifts for my cousins so we will still have presents to open and my cousin Jeff is even braving making a pot of harissa. This classic Chaldean porridge is as close to comfort food as it gets and we eat it every Christmas Eve at grandma’s. Though this Christmas will be anything but ordinary (with 90 degree weather, a trip to Tiger Kingdom, and massages… rough life, I know), we will still have a little piece of home halfway around the world, due to the traditions instilled in us our entire lives.

Here’s to creating new traditions! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? If you have ever been away during the holidays, were you able to hold on to them in some way?

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