From a father and educator’s perspective, Leonard Stanley is here to give you some advice – whether it’s questions about school, your teenager, family life, expat life or if you just need a dad’s point of view. In Advice from Dad, he answers your tough questions and gets a parent’s perspective.
The holiday season is officially here bringing an air of charity and goodwill. As we reflect on the many things we are thankful for, this time of year can also bring feelings of angst over being away from home and the people we love the most. So how do we overcome these less than positive emotions of anxiety, in lieu of the more fitting holiday spirit? Well, unfortunately the answer is not easy, as there is no substitute for the places you grew up and the ones you love, yet left behind. However, as a veteran of this fine city, who has spent many years away from home over the holidays, I can offer you some of my best solutions to cure the holiday blues.
Celebrate with Your ‘Shamily’
One of the first strategies that comes to mind for solving what has the potential to be an annual issue, is to replicate your holiday celebrations with your ‘Shamily’! We all have our Shanghai family, the close group of friends you spend the majority of your time with. They are similar to family yet better, because you actually chose them, and the holiday season is when you need each other the most. There’s a chance they are also away from home and in need of familiarity during this season. So why not get together and plan a special holiday celebration, where you can replicate your favorite traditions from back home. Pull out all the stops as you decorate your home with holiday adornments that inspire those warm fuzzy feelings. Fill the halls of your house with the smells of the season as you cook meals that remind you of home, because we all know nothing eases the mind like comfort food. Completely engage every one of your five senses and you will feel as though you never left home in the first place!
Create New Traditions
Alternatively, you can decide to embrace the diversity of Shanghai and redefine your holiday experience by creating new traditions. This city is a melting pot of people, and one of the benefits of residing in a megalopolis like this is the exposure to an infinite range of new and exciting cultures. Why not take advantage of this to create your own holiday traditions? It is a great way to learn about others and bond at the same time.
Get Away From the Cold
Lastly, (and this one may be a bit selfish but hey, I deserve it) take a trip to a local, warm weather location and enjoy some sun and sand. If you are from a cold climate like me, then getting away for a beach vacation is the perfect gift for you and your family. The Shanghai winters can be frigid, and nothing beats the beach when you are feeling blue.
When you take the time to think about it, the holiday season is fundamentally about togetherness, acceptance and spending time with those you care about. These ideals are not exclusive to any particular country, and they can be recreated here with close friends who share the same values, even if your cultures are different. It’s a great part of the expat experience; to blend different cultures in an effort to find out what makes us similar as the things that bring us together are greater than those that divide us. Look for ways to include those closest to you into your holiday routine, start your own holiday traditions or get away this season to ensure a happy home-away-from-home holiday!
Leonard Stanley was born and raised in Washington D.C., and has lived in Shanghai since 2009 with his wife and two young children Kyle (12) and Christopher (8). Leonard teaches Theory of Knowledge as well as Language & Literature at the Western International School of Shanghai.
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The Answers to 6 Classic Christmas Films for the Whole Family
1. A Wonderful Life
2. Home Alone
3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
6. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
7. Miracle on 34th Street
9. A Christmas Carol
10. Christmas With the Kranks