Friday Five · Living in Alaska

I’ll Be Home For Christmas…If Only In My Dreams (Friday Five Linkup)

Hi everyone!  It’s Friday again, which means that it’s time for the Friday Five Linkup with Cynthia, Courtney, and Mar! This week’s theme is holiday traditions.  And to be honest, I didn’t really know how to approach this topic.  This is my first Christmas ever outside Philly and away from my family, and to be honest I’m kind of taking it hard.  At first I was all “YAY CHRISTMAS!” like usual, but as we get closer and closer to Christmas and the sun comes out less and less I can just feel myself becoming sadder.  I’ve started realizing how sad some Christmas songs are – especially “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”.  Seriously?  What is Frank Sinatra trying to pull with that kind of song?  Not everyone can be home for Christmas, and we don’t need to be reminded of it constantly.  He is making me sob while driving to work, cry silently in my office during lunch, and get teary eyed when I read blog posts about other people doing stuff with their families.  I am so happy we moved here and I’m still so in love with Alaska and my job, but I can’t deal with not being with my family on Christmas.  Last year I even spent the night at my parents’ house and had so much fun feeling like a kid again.  And now…everything is different.  I’m realizing that my excitement over Christmas came from doing the same fun things every year, and I have none of those fun things here.  I feel like you don’t know what you have until you can’t have it anymore.  And the stupid sun is not helping my mood at all, even though I’m using a Happy Light and Vitamin D pills.  And where is the snow!?!?!

So when I thought about holiday traditions, I didn’t really know what to say.  So far we have done almost nothing Christmasy in Alaska because we don’t really know what’s out there.  So I decided to take a look at my usual Christmas traditions and see how I can try to keep them going here in Alaska:

1.  Look at Christmas Lights – This is my #1 holiday tradition.  I take this really seriously!  I knew about all the crazy Christmas houses in Bucks county, Montgomery county, Berks county, Delaware County, and Philadelphia County.  Seriously, if you live in any of those places just ask and I’ll fill you in on where to go.  We used to live in a very festive neighborhood and would drive around a few times a week looking at lights.  Our block had some impressive stuff!

20131224-011804.jpgPart of their light display was a snowman cowboy – wearing an Eagles shirt in case anyone got any ideas  🙂  Their neighbors had a blow-up manger scene acted out by cows.

 South Philly was the most impressive with The Miracle on South 34th St.!

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And no Christmas is complete without a visit to Longwood Gardens.  I’ve been going here since I was younger and it never gets old!

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Here in Alaska:  I’ve been googling where to find the best Christmas lights in Anchorage and I can’t find a thing!  It seems like most places here don’t put up lights.  I think it’s probably because there’s supposed to be a lot of snow on the ground, so having tons of inflatable Christmas things all over the place and lights all over the roof will get tricky with snow.  Since there’s hardly any snow, it’s not an issue this year and things just look weak.  The Alaska Zoo has a light display but I’m still looking for other places to go too!

2.  Baking/eating Christmas cookies – When I was younger my family would host Christmas Eve parties for our entire family, and my dad would bake a ton of cookies.  His favorites were chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, pecan butter balls, and nut wreaths.  They are soooooo good!

IMG_0567Santa ate my dad’s cookies!

Here in Alaska:  I’m going to ask for my dad’s recipes and try to recreate them here.  I’m also all about finding my own recipes to make my own Christmas cookie traditions!

3.  Christmas Eve parties – As I said before, every year my family would host a Christmas Eve party.  It was a huge part of my memories of Christmas, and when Andrew and I moved to DelCo after grad school I started hosting them myself!  We had my family and Andrew’s family come over, and I would bake a turkey (and my dad would bring his cookies of course!).  After our families would leave, Andrew and I would put Bella in her sweater and go for a drive around the neighborhood to look at the lights.

IMG_0557At our party 2 years ago – we weren’t even married yet!

Here in Alaska:  We bought a turkey to have our own Christmas Eve party…for just the two of us.  I’m a little afraid of my emotional state during a two-person, Bella-free Christmas Eve party, so I’m trying to think of something super awesome to do to make me forget how much I miss everyone.  Suggestions?

4.  Christmas morning – I act like a total child on Christmas morning!  I run around screaming about Santa, opening presents with my family, and eating our traditional Christmas breakfast of cinnamon rolls while listening to Christmas music.

20131226-114043.jpgBella helped me unwrap everything!

Here in Alaska:  I’ve already got the cinnamon rolls in the fridge.  My mom also mailed me all of my presents and they’re already under the tree.  Seeing her handwriting on all of my presents made me cry, but I’m so grateful to have them.  She told me she couldn’t bear the thought of me having any empty spots under my tree.  We’re going to open them over Skype so we can pretend we’re together!  Will I cry?  Yes.  Will it help me feel like we’re together?  Yes!

IMG_3693

IMG_3695So excited to see what she sent me!

5.  Christmas dinner with my mom’s family – We always head over to my aunt’s house for Christmas dinner, Pennsylvania Dutch style  🙂  So much ring bologna and cheese!

IMG_0580Getting silly after too many cookies!

Here in Alaska:  I guess I’ll have to attend over the phone!  And find something else to do for Christmas dinner.  And they don’t sell PA Dutch food up here so maybe I’ll attempt to bake my first Shoo Fly Pie?

Writing this out helps me realize that there are ways to continue my Christmas traditions here in Alaska.  It won’t be the same, and won’t ever fill the space in my heart that my family holds.  But there are ways to make Christmas fun here.  I’m hoping we can start to create new traditions, and this time next year I’ll be writing all about those instead!

In happier news, my very first virtual race is this Sunday!  The Solstice Sprint Virtual 5k is being held on the darkest day of the year, and we’re celebrating the return of the sun with running and the chance to win a Black Diamond headlamp!  Not running it?  Enter here – it’s free and you know you want some virtual company on your weekend run!  And for the 22 people already signed up, check back tomorrow for a quick post on how to get your bib, run the race, and enter to win the prize – plus a huge shoutout!  I’m so excited!

Have you ever spent Christmas away from your family?  How did you handle it?  How did you fill old traditions with new ones?

30 thoughts on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas…If Only In My Dreams (Friday Five Linkup)

  1. My first Christmas away from my family (in Beaumont TX), I was 24 years old and my poor husband….I bawled like a baby Christmas morning when that stupid “I’ll be home for Christmas” song played on the radio. Make sure to get involved with other people if possible and I hope you have a very nice day.

    1. Thanks for telling me that story, it makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one affected by that song! I’m hoping it gets easier every year. Merry Christmas!

    1. Sorry 😦 When I saw your theme I was like “Oh this will not be fun, but I need to talk about it!”. I doubt there’s a way to Skype during my aunt’s party, but I will be Skyping them on Christmas morning while opening presents. I’m sure it will be fine, but I’m just dreading how sad I could get. Andrew said we’re going to go out and look for lights tonight so that helps!

  2. I’ll Be Home For Christmas was written during World War II. It always makes me SO SAD because I think of my Dad who served as a young man and could not come home to see his parents. SAD. On a much lighter note, I’m glad to know you are continuing/adapting your traditions in Alaska. And, you CAN have an awesome two person party!!

    1. Oh god, that’s so true. My dad was in the navy for 4 years right after high school and he was never home for Christmas. I’m hoping we can have a fun time on Christmas Eve and not think of all the things I’m missing!

  3. Kristen!!! Your posts are not supposed to make me crryyy!! I am so sorry you’re sad to be away from your family this year. I can’t believe Alaska punks out on the lights!! With it being so dark, you’d think they would have MORE lights. I hope you can find them. You could try posting on Craigslist for suggestions. Sometimes people on there know so much info that Google doesn’t. I hope you can think of some great new traditions and just make this Christmas so special in your own way!

    1. I know, they’re not supposed to make me cry either! No more sadness after this 🙂 I’m going to ask around at work to see if I can find out the details on crazy houses up here!

  4. It’s sad about being away from all the traditions you’ve had for so long. But it’s great that you’re adapting them yourself to Alaska. Lights have to be my favorite part of Christmas. I really am going to need to make a trip in to see those lights in Philly one year. They look great. The virtual race sounds like a great idea too.

    1. So true! I bet they were awesome in DC! And I agree about Christmas – I enjoy the whole Christmas season more than the actual day, which is really over by like 10 am!

  5. aw i totally understand. we were supposed to be away from family this year (my first time EVER) and it made me cry every time i thought about it. we ended up being able to swing the trip to spend it with them but i was devastated at the thought of not being able to so i get it. i think it will be hard, but you have some great ideas to make it feel more like home!

  6. great post lovely. loved learning about your traditions. and you’re so right – there are new traditions to make and other ways to make christmas fun when you are away from home and family.

  7. I have had to work the last few yrs on Christmas and this yr I actually got off so very excited to go home and see family. I just went downtown Philly the other night. We went to Franklin and Square and Macy’s. I didn’t know how to get to that othe area and we were on a time schedule.

    1. That’s awesome! Macy’s has a pretty light show! Last year we did that and then went down to the Comcast building – they have a show in their lobby, I think it’s every hour? There are so many places to see lights in Philly and I’m glad you got to see some of them!

  8. What a great approach to blending the old and new. I love seeing Christmas lights! The first couple of years visiting my in-laws, we’d drive around trying to find the biggest, tackiest light displays – it was fun. I’ve never been to Longwood, but that photo makes it seem like it would be worth a trip. Hope the wonders of Skype and other technologies give you a little bit of time with your family far away.

    1. That is my favorite thing to do! The tackier the better! Longwood Gardens is not tacky at all, but it’s really pretty and half of it is inside a greenhouse so it’s nice and warm. I recommend it if you’re looking for some classy lights!

  9. I am so sorry to hear you are having a hard time being away from your family. I actually haven’t spent one Christmas Eve with my family since I moved out for college. That was 14 years ago too! Unfortunately I live far away and this year I work both Christmas Eve and Day…the hospital doesn’t close for holidays. You begin to make your own traditions and it gets better. I still love this time of the year even though I am far from my family.

    1. Wow thanks for stopping by! It’s good to know I’m not alone in being away from my family at Christmas. You are awesome for being so strong about it and still enjoying the season! It’s my favorite time of year and I’m hoping I can get back to enjoying it this weekend. Merry Christmas!

  10. My faience has been pretty down this Christmas season as well. Pretty much his entire family is in Venezuela so it is just going to be our little family for Christmas. To cheer him up we sat down and brainstormed all the things he would like to do for Christmas and came up with a big list of Venezuelan dishes that we will be cooking Christmas eve. I think as we get older things change and we have to start creating our own traditions to make the holidays special. Hope you make some happy memories this year in Alaska!

  11. One of my least favorite things about Alaska is the under-celebration of holidays. I LOVE holidays and they are just not done right here. Halloween, Christmas, 4th of July – ALL lame! They do have fireworks on New Year’s you could go see, and they have the Gingerbread Village down at the Captain Cook Hotel. Uhhhh… that’s all I’ve got. And I’ve never done either of those things so I’m super sorry if they’re lame!

    And it’s sooooo hard being away from family! I have lots of extended family here, but I always get really weepy and emotional missing my immediate family around the holidays. It’s hard. I always tell my kids, “We’re so lucky that we love each other so much that it makes missing each other so sad!” But I agree with Skyping into as many family functions as possible, and starting some new traditions. Maybe something service-oriented on Christmas Eve or Christmas – visiting a retirement home or hospital, or something like that? Or get out and do one of those uniquely Alaskan things that makes you think, “I can’t believe I get to live here!” like ice skating on a lake or something!

    I hope you can find a good balance between your old traditions and new this year. 🙂

  12. I feel you on this one. This will be my fourth Christmas away from home. And while I love living here in Utah, being so far from family is a huge downer and especially around the holidays. We make sure to Skype a lot – the one time of the year I can Skype with my grandparents. Lots of mailing presents early. And definitely establishing new traditions. Doing things here that I can’t do back in Ireland cough*ski*cough. And just getting super festive – real tree, lights, songs. It’ll be hard (and a little weird) but will make you really appreciate all those future holidays at home.

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