Creating Traditions Abroad

by Tara Livesay on December 8, 2014


It may not be true for everyone reading, but many of us grew up celebrating Christmas in a certain way.  Part of the anticipation of the holiday season was wrapped up in the excitement of the traditions of the season.

Growing up, my little nuclear family of four used to get the fondue pot out every Christmas Eve. We would make an event of it and after dinner we cleaned up and headed to a candlelight service.  After church we were allowed to open one gift, saving the rest for the big-show Christmas morning.  Each year we went around the circle opening one gift at a time starting with the oldest family member and going around to the youngest.

Now a mom to seven children, I have not done as well as my parents did at creating traditions for my kids.  The main obstacle to creating tradition?  Living far from family and the places we learned and practiced our traditions.  Our family has been in Haiti for five of the eight celebrations that have happened since we moved, making it difficult to get any sort of traction on tradition making.

Each year we celebrate Christmas with different visitors to Haiti, we find ourselves facing unpredictable work schedules at the Maternity Center.  Traffic and uncertain political situations in the country change what we choose to do for Christmas Eve. All that to say, it can be fairly challenging to make a tradition in this environment.

We have succeeded at one singular new tradition, no matter where we find ourselves in the month of December.

The one thing we have done every year for eight years is create a little video production with our kids to give as a gift to our family and friends far away.  It started as a last minute idea in 2007, the year we were back in the USA having our last child. It has now become an annual tradition and we have the joy of seeing the kids change year to year in the  “Annual Christams Extravaganza”.  Our kids love watching the old ones and seeing how their voices and faces have changed.

Today I am curious what things you and yours have done to try to create traditions abroad in your new homes.

Have you come up with things that make it feel like Christmas even though you are far from those you typically celebrated with in the past?  

What new traditions have you created?




(The three photos in this post are from the 2009 Christmas production. Live animals for a nativity scene. Chocolate for bribing children.)

Find the Christmas rap of 2011 here. (Grown kids in Texas made an appearance too.)

Find 2012 here.

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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries working in the areas of Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 25 to 7 years old. Tara enjoys running, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family. Troy and Tara consider Haiti, Minnesota, and Texas "home".
  • We have been reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for 14 consecutive years. That little book has been all around the world with us. It doesn’t matter that nobody is officially a child any more. They still want it, and I still cry with Imogene in her crookedy veil, when Christmas comes over her all at once.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Love that book!

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Kay – us too! From Chicago to Pakistan to Florida to Egypt to Massachusetts to Arizona and then back we have taken it all around the world. I love it. Before a play even came out my daughter did a rendition and co-directed it at our church. Love that book. Also Madeleine L’Engle’s 24 Days Before Christmas.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Kay and Marilyn – I am searching for my copy now, I don’t own it and that sounds wonderful!

      • Marilyn Gardner

        Can I send you a copy? I’d love to send one as a gift.

        • Tara Porter-Livesay

          I am just seeing this now, Marilyn! I’d love that!!!!!! Our daughter takes our mail if you send it to her she will get it to us 🙂
          2315 Colcord Ave
          Waco, TX 76707

          • Marilyn Gardner

            Done! She should get it by Wednesday 🙂

          • Tara Porter-Livesay

            THANK YOU SO SO MUCH — Paige just voxed me to say she has it and will bring it to me in Florida on January 4th. So appreciate your love and kindness.

          • Marilyn Gardner

            Yay! I’m so happy! Blessings on you in this season.

  • Matthew Wright

    We do the same thing Kay Bruner does! At one point in our journey we were stateside for a couple of years and all 3 of our kids had the opportunity to be in the local chidren’s and teen theater production of the play. Now “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is a must read for us each holiday season! Our youngest (now 20 and a junior in college) will be home for Christmas this year and has already requested that we read it again! We also hosted a New Year’s Eve gathering at our house every year, often inviting newer workers to join us. New Years in Tirana, Albania is marked with incredible amounts of fireworks going off in every part of the city, so we would always have friends over to watch the “show” from our balconies.

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