There are many holidays that can be pleasantly spent far from one’s home.
Easter is a big one in the States, for example. The promise of warming weather drives many Americans to go on ‘spring break’—flying en masse from the cold and damp of winter, to more predictable, warmer climates like Florida within the U.S. but also further afield often to Europe, the Caribbean or Mexico.
Christmas is another holiday that finds families travelling, sometimes to warmer climates but very often to colder ones, too; this is peak season for the ski resorts in the western U.S.
Being an expatriated American during these holidays has never felt peculiar to me in any way; these are universal holidays celebrated by Christians (and others) around the world, not just in the States. We’ve enjoyed learning new Christmas traditions from our Swiss, Dutch, Scandinavian and now English friends over the years.
In my experience, there have been only two holidays when I have felt the pang, the longing to be home, or at least around other Americans—Thanksgiving (celebrated the last Thursday in November) and Independence Day, or the 4th of July.
Most countries have holidays unique to them alone, and there is something very distinctive about these times of celebration. These holidays have a decidedly communal feeling, where it is not so important that we are with family members, but more that we are with fellow countrymen.
That’s exactly what close to one hundred of us Americans did last weekend—we gathered to celebrate (early) Independence Day. Ironically, it was our independence from the British that we were celebrating, but that’s water under the bridge.
After the party had ended and all remnants were cleared away, what struck me the most was what a quintessential 4th of July party it had been. Dads and sons turned the Toft cricket pitch into a baseball field, moms baked up their best desserts for a ‘bake-off’, the littlest children blew bubbles, and played tag. Everyone participated in the sack race and egg toss. Each family brought a special dish and we shared a marvellous picnic together.
We also recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag. Growing up in the States, school children do this every morning—right hand over heart we recite our country’s pledge to uphold the truths of our forefathers. Not having lived in America since my oldest child (now in high school) was in kindergarten, my children don’t know the words; they have never recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I watched them stumble their way through it, looking around to see when was the appropriate time to stop mumbling. I felt just a sliver of remorse, ‘They should know this. It is their own country’s pledge to be united with liberty and justice for all…’
And it was at exactly that point that I felt very lucky to be surrounded by my community of fellow countrymen.