Surviving the Holidays Elsewhere

A Bird with Wings

"Members of the "Laughter Yoga" club participate in an event called "Christmas Smile" near the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Dec. 23, 2012. (Xinhua/Ho Nhu Y) “Members of the “Laughter Yoga” club participate in an event called “Christmas Smile” near the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Dec. 23, 2012. (Xinhua/Ho Nhu Y)

If you’ve spent a Christmas or New Year in a different country, especially a non-European, not dominantly Christian country, you may have found it disconcerting. There may be little more deeply embedded in our psyches as traditional as “The Holidays”. That is for better or for worse. The sounds of a carol, the images of snow and Santas, the smells of pine and cranberry, all bombard us with emotions. In the 21st century, these images are almost inescapable. Experiencing these cues in a small town in Asia or Africa intensify the sense of displacement and alienation. This is a time full of emotional land mines.

I’ve spent almost all of the last 14 Christmases outside of the US, mostly in Asia or the…

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