As the Fourth of July approaches, some of you Americans out there living overseas might already be a little bummed to be missing the annual family backyard BBQ or that epic weekend at the beach with your best girlfriends. For other Americans living abroad, it might not hit you until you are scrolling through Instagram on July 4th. Well, you aren’t the only one missing home. Unfortunately, it is our holiday routine that we are trying to change.
Take this last Easter. I had been anticipating it for weeks, trying to figure out how to mitigate my disappointment. I wanted to pack the weekend with adventures. My husband asked why I didn’t just want to stay home for some much-needed rest. I couldn’t verbalize it to him at the time, but I did not want to stay home alone for another holiday.
The reality of our Easter hit my husband as we sat down for our Easter dinner in a sterile Chinese restaurant with drunk men clamoring in the background, outdated Christmas decorations and Turkish Soaps filling any empty spaces in between. He looked at his spicy noodles and back up at me and he didn’t have any words. It was just us for another holiday. I wasn’t the only disappointed one this Easter.
Honestly, the holiday sent me reeling for the next week. I can’t do holidays like this forever.
As the Fourth of July approaches, I sat down to brainstorm about how we can still celebrate here in Ethiopia. None of these ideas are a cure-all for overseas-holiday-blues, but maybe an idea from this list can help you creatively celebrate the Fourth of July wherever you are.
- Create New Traditions: Some holidays, like the Fourth of July are extra hard because there aren’t any local celebrations to join in unless you live in a place with a big expat community. Unfortunately, we are some of the only Americans in our town. Last year I couldn’t find sparklers (shocking) but I did find shooting candles which I fashioned to my head and dressed like the Statue of Liberty. When my husband walked in the door from work those candles were shooting in every direction and I was laughing uncontrollably at what a horrible idea it was to have fire bouncing around the house. I am not advising to try this at home, but think of a creative way to surprise the kids or your spouse this Fourth of July.
- Remember why you are alone for the holidays: I literally had to write down all the things I love about our life and why we were living here following the Easter disappointment. It was so good to remember the why. Maybe holidays are our low point, but every other day is our dream, our passion, our calling. Maybe we don’t have fireworks or barbeque chicken by the pool, but we have safaris only a country away and ancient-rock churches only a two-hour drive from us.
- Mix it up and Don’t Stay Home: Take a much needed vacation and get out of town. You probably can’t go too far but head south to visit friends in a nearby city or camp by the lake for the week with the kids.
- Bring traditions from home: I know my first tip was create new traditions, but it’s also important to remember your roots. Last Fourth of July, after we stopped laughing at me being on fire, I made barbeque chicken in the oven and served it with potato salad and coconut carrot cake. We sat the roof eating our imitation backyard barbeque and watched the sunset instead of fireworks.
- If you stay home, don’t be alone: Even if you invite people that don’t celebrate the Fourth of July, fill your home or accept an invitation elsewhere. Let your British friends taste some of those sugar cookies decorated with red, white and blue sprinkles. Last Thanksgiving, I filled my table with a Swiss and two Italians. Turns out they loved the sweet potato casserole.
- Set up a Skype date with family: I like to talk to my family on holidays. Most of the time I call on WhatsApp with no video, but the Fourth of July is a great reason to bust out the video chat.
- Don’t be too nostalgic: It’s easy to remember the Fourth of July as perfect when celebrated in America. But it can be stressful, there can be family feuds, the grill can catch on fire, the cake not rise, the kids cry during fireworks. There can be tears and disappointment even with beach volley, best friends, and trips out on the boat.
I am still figuring out how to celebrate holidays while living overseas, but I will let you know how this Fourth of July goes.
Do you have any tips to celebrating the 4th of July? How do you handle the expat holiday blues? Do you even get that anymore?