Going “home” for the holidays

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After 15 years in Beijing, it definitely feels like home to me, but there’s something about the big holidays – they are never quite the same when you move countries.

Firstly coming from the southern hemisphere, it was hard for me to get used to the fact that as the cold spread over the city and really set in, that meant Christmas was coming. Aussie Christmas for me usually meant not eating so much since it was usually pretty hot, maybe a game of backyard cricket, and sometimes a trip to the beach on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). But in Beijing, it’s a bit more about mulled wine and comfort eating.

We’ve developed a tradition with our “Beijing family” to have Christmas brunch together sometime in December before too many people go away for the holiday. I really look forward to it every year and that day feels like “Beijing” Christmas for me. But nothing beats the real thing, and since having a kid, I feel it’s more important to try and start teaching her the family traditions that are important to me. So we travel out of the winter frost and hit up our second Christmas summer-style in Melbourne. It’s a nice time of year to head south!

Chinese new year is the most important time for Chinese families to be together, so after staying a few weeks with my family at Christmas, we’ll head back a little earlier than I’d like to spend the Chinese new year with my Chinese husband’s family.

We’re really lucky that they also live in Beijing, so we don’t have to travel in the crazy human wave of migration that happens as 1.3 billion people try to fulfil family obligations to visit home. We’re also really fortunate that my husband’s family are also very laid back, simply happy for us all to be together on new year’s eve and the fifth day of the new year, without any big expectations on what we need to bring or do.

We generally just sit around and eat and drink and enjoy ourselves. Of course, there is jiaozi (dumplings), the CCTV New Year gala on TV, and Yeye (grandfather) likes to light a few firecrackers outside, and there’s some tradition about leaving one light on in the house all night. I don’t quite understand the significance of it all, but I’m happy for my daughter to get the chance to learn the family traditions from both sides of her family.

And on the other hand, I think spending Chinese new year in Australia would really never have quite the warmth that I feel spending it with our Chinese family in Beijing.

Do you like to travel for the holidays? Is it important to you to be in a certain place for certain holidays?

Susie Hart

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