As it’s Tiny Expats blog’s 1st year anniversary, I thought, I could round up expat experiences of the tiny expats themselves – put together some highlights of our daughters’ journey. They had lots of adventures already, relocating, travelling in their host countries and experiencing new things. Here’re just some of the favourites, one per each country of residence:
1. Hamburg, Germany – Christmas Market (Weinachtsmarkt)
I haven’t seen many Christmas Markets, but out of what I’ve seen, I really love how they do it in Germany! All those wurstchen, sauerkraut, gluhwein – sounds really cosy and smells divine! Our older daughter was born in Hamburg and got to experience local Christmas markets twice (although, during the first one she was still laying down in a stroller, while the parents indulged in all the treats on offer). We still have some photos and videos of her riding on a carousel and walking around knee deep in snow with her daddy (yes, we were really lucky with white snowy winters there).
Although, she doesn’t even remember living in Germany, if asked where she’s from, she says that she’s from Hamburg – here’s a case of third culture kid identity for you :)
You can read more about the way we celebrated winter holidays in different countries and find more photos in this post.
2. Shanghai, China – Spring Festival
When we moved to Shanghai, our daughter was 1 year and 5 months old. We celebrated Spring Festival twice in Shanghai, but the first one was the most impressive one. We just arrived to our new home in February and in a matter of days were greeted with a thunderstorm of fireworks coming from all over the place. No time for a slow culture immersion :) Spring Festival is celebrated for 2 weeks and every day during this time people light up firecrackers on the streets (some days less, some days, especially important ones, – more).
Our daughter was part scared part really curious about all this crazy noise – coming from a quiet Hamburg suburb, this was a completely different environment. In a year’s time, when she was almost 2,5, she didn’t worry that much about the noise. Well, at least if there was a pretty good distance separating her from all the explosions :)
Read more about our Shanghai Spring Festival impressions here.
3. Yalta, Crimea – Easter
We lived for about 4 months in Crimea (then Ukraine, now, I guess, Russia), when she was about 1.5 (we went there during our time in Shanghai). We spent there a part of a spring and a summer – it’s such an amazing place! The sea, mountains, forests. Love it! (Have a look at some photos from Crimea here and here). When we were there, it was time to celebrate Easter. It was a great occasion to introduce our daughter to the way we traditionally celebrate this holiday. We coloured some eggs, bought Easter cakes (I’m not a good enough cook to bake them!) and went to a local church to have them sprinkled with holly water a day before Easter.
Our daughter was really happy to get all dressed up and carry a bucket with bright looking treats :) There were a lot of people surrounding the church, when we got there. We waited for the priest to come our way and our daughter was really curious, looking at what he was doing – he was springing everything and everyone around with a brush dipped into some holly water. When he reached us and we got our very generous share of sprinkles, she got surprised and upset – oh my God, what was all that about??? She settled down quickly, though, and later told everyone about that incident with the help of few words and a lot of pantomime :)
We went to this pre-Easter celebration in Moscow and our younger daughter joined us a couple of years later as well. I think, it’s such a happy tradition – everyone’s smiling, happy about the spring finally coming, about bright sunshine and warmer days, laughing about getting wet. One my favourite holidays :)
Find out more about Easter symbols in our culture here.
4. Moscow, Russia – New Year’s holidays.
New Year is a very big holiday in Russia and, I guess, in all post Soviet countries. Christmas was neglected for a very long time as the state did not approve of any religion and religious holidays. Over the decades of communism, the fun aspect of Christmas was gradually transferred to a different date – New Year. All similar attributes – Christmas tree (although, it was called simply a fur tree), lots of tasty dishes, visiting family and friends and, of course, waking up and finding presents under the tree in the morning (on the 1st of January). We all celebrate Christmas and nowadays it gets a lot of attention as well, but it’s hard to change the traditions you were born to and grew up with. Ded Moroz (Russian version of Santa Claus, translated as ‘grandpa frost’) still comes to the kids on the night of 31st Dec – 1st Jan. Although, my kids now get some small present on Christmas morning as well, but I just can’t help myself – winter holidays are amazing and I love all the happy feelings connected to them :)
So, if you consider all of the above, you would understand just why New Year’s celebrations are so big in Russia and why they never feel the same in any other country in Europe. I was happy to let our daughters experience Russian New Year traditions. You get in a holiday mood in December, celebrate the New Year, followed by Christmas (on the 7th of January), rounded up by the Old New Year (on the 14th of January). You can continue with Epiphany and anticipate traditional Epiphany hard frosts.. Anyways, that’s already something to talk about in another post :)
My husband took our older daughter to the Red Square, she was very impressed by the huge tree and the clock tower. She went on some rides, they bought sweets from the stalls set up on the Red Square, they even bought the traditional Russian headdress – kokoshnik :) As she is half Russian, this was a great way for her to get introduced to her culture and traditions.
Those amazing professional photos were taken by Oxana Ruban, photographer from Moscow. Check out her blog here. (And my daughter’s drawing apparently represents Christmas tree on the Red Square. That black circly thing is a merry-go-round :).
5. Pardubice, CZ – Lantern walk
Each October people of Pardubice organise a lantern walk. Everyone gathers up on the old town square, holding small lanterns (some bring the real ones with a canlde inside, but you can also buy one working on batteries from any stationary shop just before this holiday). All kids are super excited, holding lanterns, waiting for the walk to begin. Everything starts with a procession holding torches emerging from the main city government building. They lead the way and everybody follows, via old streets, around the castle, along Elbe river. It all culminates in a great fireworks show. Children love it :)
More posts about our life in Pardubice can be found here.
Of course, my tiny expats’ experience cannot be summed up just by these 5 occasions. Holidays, customs, traditions, places, languages, people – they learn so much from this. They’re still very little and might forget some of it, so I’ll just keep on writing up our memories and make lots of photos, they can look at with their own kids.