A Very Merry Expat Christmas

Expat Globe

Asturian Diary is a blog by British expat Mary Ryan. Here she writes about the life of a British expat family in Asturias, Northern Spain.

Finally, the festive period has drawn to a close. Here in Spain the Christmas season feels particularly extended as the Reyes Magos (the three Kings) pay their visit on 6th January (the feast of the Epiphany.) Traditionally it is the Reyes who deliver gifts to Spanish children (if they have been good, of course!)

It's a lovely tradition and is brought vividly to life in towns and villages around the country when the 'cabalgatas' arrive on the night of January 5th, hosting living tableaux of nativity scenes, complete with the royal protagonists of the day who come bearing gifts for the children and go so far as to throw sweeties into the crowds. Hot chocolate is provided for the spectators and there is much excitement for the hordes of small children.

For the ex-pat parent this poses rather a conundrum as we find ourselves awkwardly caught between two Christmas cultures. Personally, I would have been tempted to traitorously ditch the Santa Claus tradition entirely in favour of the Reyes if it were not for their timing. Presents that arrive the day before the new school term starts can't be played with in the Christmas holidays. And that would suck. For everybody.

Another timing related issue is that grandparents and relatives back home have an expectation that Christmas Day is the day that presents will be exchanged and that the red-suited one will be playing his role. It would be hard to explain on the festive family Skype calls why their precious darling hasn’t received any presents yet and will have to wait another fortnight!

It is when faced with these kinds of differences that we realise most how steeped in our own traditions we really are. It is not just our own attitudes that inform what we do today but those of generations of our families. We may want to integrate into our new home but we can’t quite bring ourselves to abandon our old one entirely. So Santa had to visit but so did the Reyes.

At the end of the day it is our son who will be (and indeed already is) the most thoroughly integrated member of our ex-pat family. And we really couldn’t have him being the only child in the village to wake up to an empty stocking on the 6th January. So a double Christmas celebration it was.

Read more from the Asturian Diary at www.asturiandiary.wordpress.com