Holiday Blues: Our Testimony of Sadness To Joy

It is full blown holiday season and for many a time of happiness, peace, and joy but for others this is not true! The stress of the season can pull many down.  The weather changes can cause darkness and cold decreasing outdoor activity. And often this is a time we feel the loss of loved ones gone or the struggle to bring family together that may not want to be together! But, for us the hardest part of the holidays was learning to enjoy the season without many of our loved ones and without the holiday culture that we had experienced in America.

Enjoying the holidays in a new location is a learning process!

I think this is the worst Santa pic ever! Check out Santa.

We have come a long way. This year we enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and will return overseas for Christmas.  We realized that we will not have time to do the traditional activities such as putting up the tree and opening presents so we found another solution.  We are planning a stop in Europe for Christmas where we can hopefully worship our Savior at The Cathedral of Notre Dame.  What a unique experience that would be.  Keep following the blog to see if it happens! But, how did a family with 4 kids come to celebrate the holidays with joy when the experiences are so nontraditional and far from those we love.

We want to share our advice for getting the most out of this holiday season!

The biggest drag is expectations! There is a book that helped me the most and not just at the holiday season.  I came to realize that my own expectations of what the holiday season should be were holding me back.  My own expectations of myself were also holding me back.  Expectations of the culture such as the number of gifts our kids get compared to others can also be a hindrance to joy. Lastly, was feeling as if there were expectations from others such as family and friends. It was freeing to realize the power of expectation on my emotions in many aspects of life, I realized that I had allowed these expectations to burden me instead of freely celebrating in a way that was mine and ours as a family. To learn more, read this book about expectations:

You’ve heard the saying:

Jump in With Both Feet!

And, this is true for experiencing the best holiday overseas.  I do not recommend family videoing their Christmas gathering and you watching that in a far location.  You might think that this would help you feel included and happy to be a part but what we have found is that this often leads to tears.  Maybe not at that moment but when the video is done and it is dark and quiet, sadness can creep in.  We have tried to share holidays back and forth with pictures, phone calls, and messages allowing a brief time of enjoying the holidays together but keeping in the present with both feet at the location you are.

Connect Where You Are!

Don’t Try Doing It Alone!

If your single, a couple, or with kids, anywhere you travel, you can find others ready to celebrate.  So join in and make friends where you are. You never know, sometimes these friendships can become as close as family.

Teaching a friend to make Christmas cookies.  Bringing in others who have never celebrated this holiday brings great joy.


Lastly,  Once the above is accomplished, you are free to make your own holiday plans and thats where the joy and excitement for the season begins! I will share some traditions that we have created but go with your own.  You may or may not have kids but holidays can be a joy whether you have 2 or 6!

  1. Before kids, we would often spend the holidays at a nice hotel that had holiday activities and lots of other couples.
  2. Many Thanksgiving holidays we’ve enjoyed cooking for other expats and Asians who wanted to join us. This created a busy and happy atmosphere leaving no room for tears!

3. Include nature in your celebration as being outdoors will lift your spirits. This can be a picnic, hike, or ocean view with holiday songs and reading.

4. For Christmas, we have celebrated the whole week before with daily activities such as making and decorating cookies, attempting a ginger bread house, writing cards to each other and opening them together, a night of singing and worship, and so on.  Some of these activities can be done no matter where we are.

Cambodians like to celebrate Christmas with curry and bread.  Here is the curry being cooked in my back yard and stirred with my broomstick!!

Reflecting back on our first Christmas with a child, we have realized how much our feeling of joy for the holidays has increased no matter where we celebrate.  The first Christmas, there were very few decorations.  We brought this baby tree from America and decorated it with lights we found sold at idol worshipping shops.  Strange, but we were able to create a sense of holiday.

Eli’s First Christmas in Cambodia


Be present this holiday season.  Whatever activities you get to enjoy, be there with your whole mind, all your thoughts, a grateful heart choosing joy.  Often your emotions will follow.  But, if you have a moment of tears, don’t feel guilty but get up the next morning ready to turn it around! Christmas was given as a gift to you in Gods special package and there were no lights on trees and malls to buy gifts on that day! So celebrate this season freely and I think you will realize that this joy is contagious!



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