Holidays as full-time traveling family: tradition, longing, & matching pj’s

Christmas window clings
$3 worth of Christmas-themed window clings have replaced our tree and lights this year. On the upside, they cost a lot less than a tree!

We’re officially in the middle of what is known in the U.S. as “The Holidays”, aka Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve/Day. It starts sometime before or right after Halloween, depending on the size of the retail stores in your area, and ends January 2.

For a lot of traveling families, The Holidays can be a challenging time, especially the first holiday season away from home. We’ve left our extended families and holiday routines behind, and nothing looks the way we’re used to seeing it. It’s particularly difficult to keep up with holiday traditions when those involved people, places, and things that are far away. The common theme is that it just doesn’t FEEL like Christmas.

My family was eased into our first holiday season away from home, because The Boss’ birthday was on Thanksgiving Day this year. We chose to forgo Thanksgiving altogether, which wasn’t terribly difficult considering it’s a U.S.-specific holiday, and not celebrated in Mexico outside of the expat communities, which we aren’t a part of here. Coincidentally, this was also our first birthday celebration away from home, as well. John made The Boss her choice of cake (rocky road) and we got tickets to a Nutcracker performance at the big auditorium here in Puebla. It gave us something else to celebrate, and allowed us to move into the season without dwelling too much on who and what we were missing at home.

Chinese acrobatic ballet performs The Nutcracker in Puebla, Mexico
The Nutcracker as you’ve never seen it before, performed by a Chinese acrobatic ballet company. The ballerina is on pointe on top of the man’s head here!

Now, however, it’s December. In addition to the usual holidays, my dad’s 60th birthday is coming up next week, and it feels wrong that I’m missing a milestone birthday like that (in creeps that guilt I’ve written about before). Christmas decorations are up around town, we’ve gone to see The Nutcracker, and we hear Christmas carols everywhere we go, both familiar and not. But it still doesn’t really feel like Christmas. The Christmas ornaments, handmade by the kids over the years, our stockings and Christmas tree skirt, handmade for us with love by a grandma, and the advent calendar that came from my childhood–all of those familiar things which signaled that the Christmas season is definitely here–are in a storage shed at my parents’ house. We landed at a new housesit a couple of weeks ago, and will be leaving it just a few days before Christmas, which doesn’t really lend itself to setting up a Christmas tree or putting up lights and other decorations, even if we had those things.

Last week, The Entertainer mentioned that he missed our family Christmas pj’s, and asked if we could get some. We typically bring the Christmas pj’s out on Thanksgiving night. We wear them while decorating the tree, during our annual viewing of Elf, and as often as they’re clean until Christmas. We have photos of us in our Christmas pj’s starting years before The Entertainer was born, and even with our tiny foster kittens. Still, when it came time to choose what to pack when we left for full-time travel, Christmas pj’s were not a priority. We travel carry-on only, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for sentimental items. The Entertainer’s question reminded us that some of our Christmas traditions are still doable, and that maybe sometimes we can make room for things that serve more than a utilitarian purpose.

Matching Christmas pj's bringing the holiday spirit
I’m not sure which of them came up with this, but they thought it was hilarious.

They weren’t very easy to find, but we eventually found some Christmas pj’s. The kids were so excited to wear them for the first time, and even requested (demanded) that we sing some Christmas karaoke in our matching pj’s. It surprised me that something so seemingly unimportant as pj’s could mean so much. It’s still 70 degrees outside. We will not have a white Christmas, nor can we hope to have one. We don’t have a Christmas tree or presents or stockings or any of the other familiar trappings of Christmas.

What we do have is each other. We have this great adventure together, where we’re learning so much about ourselves and each other and our whole messy, gorgeous world. And now we have Christmas pj’s, too, which we’ll somehow manage to fit into our backpacks. All of those are worth more than any present we could buy, and more beautiful than any Christmas tree, string of twinkly lights, or blanket of snow.

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