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Celebrating festivals as an expat family

When you decide to move to another country and become an expat, especially as a family, there are usually very compelling reasons to leave your home and close family behind. Over time, you begin to accept your reality, and settle down in your new life. But there are some occasions where you simply wish you were back where you came from.

Celebrating festivals as an expat can be a little uneventful. Your home doesn't overflow with friends and relatives you only see on special occasions. There isn't a mad, chaotic celebration that somehow sorts itself out, and leaves good memories behind. You see how your cousin's children have grown, or how much weight your Aunt has lost. You get to taste Grandma's special dish that only tastes that way when she makes it. This list could go on.

We moved to Dubai about four years ago, leaving behind our parents, siblings, and friends in India. I can truly say that it's a bit lonely being an expat at festival time, but we have learnt to make the most of it.

Celebrating festivals as an expat family


Festivals are just not the same without the extended family. We do miss our family a lot during those times, but I believe in looking at the bright side, especially when it comes to festive occasions. Big families make great get-togethers, even if things get a little dramatic!

We have learnt of many new traditions. For us, the biggest festival is Eid, and even though it is also celebrated in India, we have discovered different traditions here in Dubai. The food is different, and the greetings are different. In India, Muslims have adopted many different traditions from regional cultures. In Dubai, the Arab culture is prominent, and they believe in simple traditions.

We have discovered new festivals. India has hundreds of festivals the year round, but there are many that we never really got to see. Christmas isn't big back home, and neither is Halloween. Because Dubai is a multicultural city, we have actually been able to take part in festivities from around the world, and I think that is wonderful for us.

We get to bond as a family. Expat life is a busy life, because there are so many responsibilities to fulfill all on your own, without the support of loved ones. So, festivals become a time to bond as a family, and spend time with each other. Over time, we may develop our own family traditions and they will make our festivals special.

Are you an expat? What festival makes you miss home the most?


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17 comments

Seychellesmama said...

Lovely post Tarana!! I couldn't agree more with how wonderful it is for expat families to discover new traditions and learn about different holidays and festivals!!

I also totally agree that it brings you together more as a family!!

For us we definitely miss our families most around Christmas!! X

Meg said...

Great post. Yes I agree, we have made our own family traditions since we can't spent holidays and festivals with my own American family. I didn't really explore my reasons for becoming an expat in the first place and my decision to bring up my children in Britain wasn't even a deliberate decision. It just sort of happened that way. Perhaps that's why I've found it so challenging!

Ersatz Expat said...

I love this post - there are so many traditions from around the world that we miss when we move - I will miss celebrating Orthodox Christmas and Easter (which we did in KAzakhstan in addition to our own Christmas and Easter days). Nauruz (Persian New Year) was also a big Kazakh holiday which we will no longer celebrate but in compensation Chinese New Year will be a biggie here in Malaysia.

Phoebe Thomas said...

I loved reading this. I've lived apart from my extended family for so long now that it's normal for me not to see them, but over the years, having lived in 9 countries I've absorbed many different traditions and festivities. My husband and I met in Vietnam and we still celebrate Tet (lunar new year) every year, my favourite carols at Christmas are Czech...there are plenty more but I won't go on! #myexpatfamily

sleepingshouldbeeasy said...

I didn't know you were originally from India! Things I learn... :) I'm not an expat, but I moved to the US when I was 8 and the culture shock can be pretty overwhelming. I can't imagine not being with my family as I'm so used to them being around. ~Nina

Tarana said...

I'm sure you could relate to this, Chantelle!

Tarana said...

I hope things worked out in the end!

Tarana said...

It looks like you've experienced many cultures, and that must be great!

Tarana said...

You must have a wealth of experiences to share then!

Tarana said...

That is the toughest part of being an expat!

Theresa A (Capri + 3) said...

I'm not an expat but I always thought it seemed interesting and a little exciting for families to try something completely new. I can understand why festivals that you used to share with your family would feel a little lonely once you move. Like you said, I imagine you will start new traditions as a family as time goes on. Hopefully, your extended families can come an and experience your new traditions with you in the future.

Mike said...

I've been reading more and more about expats in different countries since Thanksgiving. I had not stopped to realize what an impact it would have on families like your's, Tarana. I'm glad you are learning new traditions and enjoying other festivals. I like best you sharing about your family bond. That is a strength that can never be broken :)

Polly Mixtures said...

I really miss my family and friends at Christmas and during the lead up to it, but I maintain family traditions with music and family recipes I've grown up with and enjoy making my family traditions an ongoing tradition for our little family. #MyExpatFamily P x

Tarana said...

Yes, we are always evolving because all the new experiences we are exposed to.

Tarana said...

That's the point, some traditions really do mean a lot and I miss them!

Tarana said...

Truly, Mike, there's nothing like spending time with family.

Tarana said...

That's the right approach, Polly. I try to retain our own traditions in my family as well.

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