Published on December 20th, 2013


Expat Desperately Seeking the Christmas Spirit


My cherished “Christmas in Illinois” card, hand signed by my Mother in 1968 that I’ve carried across the oceans to remind me of my roots.

It’s nearly Christmas once again – and this will be my THIRD Christmas as an expat, 8,000+ miles away from my native land.

My first Christmas living abroad was on a far-flung island (Pulau Weh) waaay up at the tippy-top of Indonesia in Sumatra.  And last Christmas was among my life-long favorites: celebrated in Dalat, Vietnam, with my dear L’Auberge Ami “family”.

This year I’m in Thailand, and – given my recent weeks of skipping ’round Myanmar – I haven’t had much of a chance yet to settle in and make friends here in Chiang Mai.  Nonetheless, there are many “farang” (foreigner) activities to choose from – Christmas concerts, caroling, wine-tasting, younameit.  Even nativity pageants here in the land of Buddha smiles.  I’ve also become quite involved with the Chiang Mai Couchsurfing group here, and we have both a Christmas Eve and a Christmas Day dinner planned.


It’s tough sometimes to feel the warm, rosy glow of the holiday spirit when you’re far from family and friends, amid a sea of folks who speak gibberish and don’t even celebrate the same holidays.  Nonetheless, as long as I am able to draw breath in and out – no matter where on the Planet I happen to be, each and every year I try my best to cobble together at least the rudiments of the traditional Christmases of my childhood.  It takes a bit of effort, but I always manage to somehow reach deep down and find that little place in my heart that still holds a tiny bit of the magic of Christmas.


The Christmas Spirit is alive and well
Chiang Mai, Thailand 2013

Thus, within hours of stepping off the plane from Myanmar, I headed out here in Chiang Mai to find myself – why a Christmas tree, by golly!  Nope, no pine-scented Doug Firs nor Blue Spruce tree lots on every corner.  Indeed, all I could find was a small nook on the 3rd floor of the mall with a tiny assortment of christmas ornaments, a few strings of twinkly lights, and a choice of but two dubiously realistic artifical Christmas trees: large and small.  Ah but it was enough.

Skipping back to my apartment clutching my festive holiday goodies to my breast, I turned up the volume of “Deck the Halls” on my iPhone speakers, and happily hummed along whilst stringing bitty blue lights, a snowflake garland and a dozen silvery ornaments on my… 60-something-eth Christmas tree.

And though there will be no sparkly snow drifts to dazzle my eyes on Christmas morning (not to mention I shall again have to play “Santa” by filling my own childhood stocking with tangerines and chocolate), I dare say I have once again found the magical “Spirit of Christmas” here in some g-forsaken rice paddy in Southeast Asia.


Indeed, I got so carried away with the pure glee of it – I suddenly found myself searching every image folder on my laptop – to unearth a small handful of fond Christmas holidays gone by…

(Click on any of the thumbnails to start the slide show…)

About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

8 Responses to Expat Desperately Seeking the Christmas Spirit

  1. Patti says:

    Merry Christmas Dyanne and thanks for finding me over at One Road at a Time. Best wishes for 2014 and I look forward to following your adventure!
    Patti kindly contributed to world literature by posting…The Best of The Season ~My Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Thanks Patti – I just got back from Christmas dinner at a British pub here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had cranberries, Patti. Did you hear me? CRAN.BER.RIES! My (desperately American-chow-neglected) taste buds are in HEAVEN! 😉

  2. Best wishes for a merry Christmas in your new expat home. I’m sorry you will be missing loved ones during this holiday season, but I’m glad you’ve dropped anchor (for now) in Chang Mai so I can meet you when we waft through next month. We’ll be on our way eventually to a 3 month stint in Hawaii, the longest we will have been away from “home” during our 31 year marriage. We won’t be there for Christmas, but G-d willing, I’ll celebrate the big 6-0 there.
    Suzanne Fluhr kindly contributed to world literature by posting…The High Road to Taos, New MexicoMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      LOL Suzanne – I’m very much looking forward to meeting you on your swath through Chiang Mai, but… isn’t Thailand a little out of the way on a path from New Mexico to Hawaii? 😉

      And 6-oh! for you, young lady? We’ll definitely have to celebrate when you get here. Perhaps… on a ELEPHANT!

  3. It’s been a while since we got home for Christmas. Our family are coming over, however. Which will help.
    Gran Canaria Local kindly contributed to world literature by posting…La MacarenaMy Profile

  4. James says:

    I think one of the toughest things about being an expat is the distance from family and friends. New friends are great, but old friends are better! Stay safe and enjoy the holidays!

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