Recalling my first Boxing Day Blowout extravaganza as a newly minted American expat living in Canada brings back memories of sleeplessness, blurry eyed crazed Canadians standing in minus 25 temperatures and packed parkades at 4 AM. (sidenote for Americans: A parking garage in Canada is a parkade. Yeah, I didn’t know that either.) Contrasting sharply with America, Christmas day in Canada is not for hitting the movies, watching the annual NBA holiday matchup or drinking yourself into a stupor and sleeping until Noon the next day. Preparing for the mad dash known as Boxing Day, the Canadian version of Black Friday, was all that counted.
My in-laws street in Edmonton
Arriving for my first holiday dinner with new in-laws in Edmonton back in 2000, I discovered that families hung out with each other all day chatting about insignificant but conversational issues and watched the Yule Log while waiting for the big holiday meal. Strangely devoid of normal music, there was nothing but Christmas carols on the radio even on the classic rock station. Mystified, I opened the door to reach for the morning paper, but learned that the newspapers didn’t publish an edition on December 25th.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Christmas dinner table at Diane’s relatives house. There was no dinner. Spending our last holiday season in the cold before we move to Malaysia in the spring, Diane and I heard the news through the family grapevine.
Although both her parents are relatively fit and healthy, they’ve apparently decided that 80 is the magic age where parents get to say “I’m too old to cook anymore”. Fortunately, there’s always been a solution and for a Chinese-Jewish couple, it’s almost sacrilegious NOT to engage in the traditional Christmas Feast at a Chinese restaurant. Invented in New York City, Christmas Day Chinese dinner represents the busiest day of the year for a Chinese restaurant, sans perhaps Chinese New Year. Welcoming both religious, non-religious and those Jews somewhere in-between, Chinese entrepreneurs figured out long ago that the Jewish community has a lot of money, celebrates their own holiday season on eight different days that never fall on December 25th and best of all, Jewish people love Chinese food.
One of the many advantages of an unexpected layoff is the freedom to choose your own vacation days and not asking your boss for two weeks off when everyone else wants the same thing. Concluding the longest year of my life, Diane and I are off to her family’s homeland for the holiday season. With an approaching cold front promising minus 20 degree temperatures by Christmas Day, a tropical holiday with margaritas by the pool is not in the cards this year. Disclosing our plans to sell the house in March and file for an MM2H visa is part of the mission since Diane chose to keep her parents in the dark until now. (No, I don’t know why; I think it’s an Asian thing to keep secrets or something like that).
Wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season, please follow our holiday posts these next two weeks but please forgive any delays in responding due to our “hotel accommodations”. As first generation immigrants approaching their 80th birthdays, Diane’s parents are not likely to embrace the concept of home WiFi this season so we’ll be relying on Starbucks, the mall and eventually my sister-in-law’s house for New Year’s Eve.
Approaching our last American Thanksgiving holiday before the move to Malaysia, DIane and I plan on preparing one last home cooked turkey dinner for two. Because we’re a mixed marriage (she’s Canadian, I’m American), this marks our second Thanksgiving dinner this year. Taking the easy way out in October, we drove to a local Hofbrau on Columbus Day for our annual Canadian Thanksgiving dinner (shown in the picture below). Falling on a Monday like a normal three-day weekend, the Northern version is more of a harvest festival without Puritans, Indians, NFL football and annual parades presented by large department stores.
Discussing the nuances of life as an American expat in Canada in a recent post, we highlighted important issues like understanding insane weather forecasts in Celsius and why the world’s largest indoor mall plays an important role during the holidays. Learning the differences between Canadian and American holidays takes some education and after the sixth year I finally mastered what days I’d be home from the office. Facing a brand new set of challenges, I glanced at the 2015 Public Holidays in Penang and sadly, I’m bewildered by Hari Rya Day,Merdeka Day and two days of Chinese New Year. Unsure how to celebrate Thaipusm and Wesa Day, it occurred to me I’ll need complete retraining. Continue reading →