random new years and other holidays, but a year without thanksgiving

About a week before observing Islamic New Year last week, we received an email that our Professional Development day had been moved from Friday to Thursday, November 15 (the actual new year) for the ex-pat staff so that we essentially had a 3 day weekend–instead of a Thursday holiday and then back on Friday for PD.

So ironic for Americans as this new year is being observed 1 week before our Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving week is just another normal week. Well, actually, not normal in that it’s one of our first weeks in which we will have 5 consecutive days of school. But who’s complaining? Not me.

The unexpected 3-day weekend was the first time, that I actually scrambled and found discount tickets to Singapore to capitalize on our good fortune. While there, I was delighted (and somewhat jealous–I don’t regret living in a predominantly Muslim country. I really don’t. Only sometimes, maybe.) to stumble on the lighting of Orchard Road to kick off Christmas.

There are no markers of Christmas here in BSD (no wreaths, no reindeer, no pre-Christmas deals, etc.)–so coupled with the warm weather, it was oddly surreal to realize that Christmas had not been canceled. A strangely tropical glitzy Asian version of Christmas began with “We wish you a Merry Christmas” playing overhead at the airport. Christmas music has not lost its magical power.



I also met Jee Young, an international teacher blogger that I have been following since before I made my decision to become one myself. She accepted a new position in Singapore as I was moving to Jakarta. We met at a bakery across the street from my hotel. Random coincidences.

I’m still trying to get a handle on all the holidays. Check out the schedule for Idul Fitri. Unlike Christmas, it does not stay put. It can even be celebrated in different “seasons” which doesn’t mean anything near the equator, of course. I can’t imagine Christmas traveling its way across the calendar like that.

The next new years is ours, then the Chinese new year . . . so I better get started on my resolutions. But first, I plan to listen to any podcast that lovingly and reassuringly discusses last-minute turkey and sides preparations: The GoodFood Blog, The Sporkful, and the classic plus the smash-up.

Sniffle. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The warmth. The food. The mashed potatoes. The gravy. The harvest-ness of it all. The cozy hearth. The launching of the holiday season. The lighted wreaths that just appear on the garages of my neighbors and eventually mine (after fall conferences are finally over) . . . My attempts at brining after I pick up the turkey 12 hours before it’s served which has been stuffed traditionally by my brother-in-law. My dad’s opening prayer. My sister’s worries about the food getting cold. My mom’s tart but creamy cranberry salad that only a select few enjoy. The pumpkin pie with real whipped cream. The mashed potatoes and gravy!!

P.S. There may be a Korean restaurant in my future to observe this celebration of fellowship and food. Komsahamneda!!


About jaclynfre

Tech integration specialist, recipe adventurer, fast walker, sporadic writer, aunt, sister and daughter
This entry was posted in life and culture, transitions, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to random new years and other holidays, but a year without thanksgiving

  1. Beth says:

    I love the way you embrace a new culture, yet long for the familiar things of your own. It makes you so real.
    Did you plan to meet Jee Young or was it truly a coincidence?

    • jaclynfre says:

      We planned to meet. I meant to say that the bakery she had chosen was just across the street from where I was staying–that was kind of random. Delicious and random.

  2. Deb says:

    My sister talks about Christmas in Australia. December is mid-summer for her there. The Christmas music is the same (“White Christmas”, etc.). Some shops spray “snow” in the corners of the windows. It’s so hot that a large meal isn’t too appetizing. Turkey is very expensive. I guess if Christmas traveled across the calendar with the hemisphere and the season, it might help! I agree with you — Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday too. Christmas seems to have more stress (gifts, travel, greeting cards, expenses, budget). Thanksgiving seems to be more about gathering around comfort food, holding hands, looking forward and looking back. Even when beloved family members are gone from the table, or family members don’t get along or Black Friday looms — Thanksgiving seems to be a brief flash of something unique and special. Unless we really do stop to count the blessing, is it somehow selfish too, knowing there are so many in the world who will be hurting or hungry that day instead?

    • jaclynfre says:

      Deb, Thanks for sharing. There is something about the commercial Christmas that tries too hard–too pushy–a high that is waiting to crash. However, I like your reminder that the simplest reasons for the holidays should give us perspective.

      As I get older, I become more and more thankful for my health. I am definitely thankful for the blessings of friends, family, a job, learning, my new home, etc. I appreciate your gentle reminder and also your words of encouragement.

      Warmest regards to you and your family during Thanksgiving!!!

  3. elsie says:

    Learning traditions of another culture is an interesting journey. I hope you will continue to share your discoveries. Sorry you will miss the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. 😦

    • jaclynfre says:

      Elsie, Thanks for the kind note. I definitely want to share in the generous culture of the Indonesian people who have been nothing but offer their culture in bits to newcomers. One taxi driver stopped randomly to purchase some tahu (fried soy cubes) from a street vendor so that I could try Indonesian food. He was eager to see if I liked it. The best part was remembering his gesture–but its golden brown color from the frying was pleasant on the first bite.

      Where have you traveled? I’m interested in your discoveries.

  4. Bruce Frens says:

    Good thing we don’t need just a special day to have thanksgiving. Every day can be one of thanksgiving. 🙂 We’ll miss you at our special day of Thanksgiving however. We’ll try to call you or you can call us.
    Love Mom

    • jaclynfre says:

      Awww . .. Mom, I hope you are making the cranberry salad and having a serving for me. Maybe we can have it at Christmas time.

      Thanks for the reminder. Thanksgiving can be all year. Love you!!

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