It's Memorial Day weekend in the United States of America, everybody! Formerly known as Decoration Day, "it commemorates U.S. casualties of any war or military action" (Wikipedia.) There are traditional commemorative services held at cemeteries and war memorials, but this weekend is also famous for sporting events like the Indianapolis 500, as well as retail sales extravaganzas. If you're an American living abroad, or an expat in this country, how are you spending the day?
Celebrating the holidays you know and grew up with is a great piece of advice when you're living abroad. It can give you that feeling of certainty and belonging in those often inevitable moments of melancholy homesickness. Knowing the folks at home are just about firing up the grill and downing their second (enter your beverage of choice here) while you're strapped to your desk in Timbuktu can be tough.
I invite you this weekend to prepare your own personal celebration of this day, and every following national holiday that you grew up with but that's not customary in your host country. This is the time to decorate your house, cook your favorite foods, call and chat with friends, or find that TV broadcast online. Ask your family and friends to send over some non-perishable and legal items in the mail so you receive them in time to party in style. Especially your children will really appreciate the effort, plus it provides a great opportunity for cross-cultural education and understanding. Don't forget that as expats, you are ambassadors of your nation, so tell your new friends everything they want to know about your customs. Next up: 4th of July! (Make sure you check with the local fire brigade about local fireworks regulations.)
While we're on the subject, one of the many things that aids your integration into the host culture is celebrating their national and public holidays, too. It gives you the opportunity to learn and form closer relationships with your neighbors, who in turn will appreciate your curiosity. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you'll most likely have fun raising your cross-cultural awareness. They're celebrations after all, right? Of course, every nation celebrates differently, so why don't you leave us a comment here of the most bizarre festival or event you've been to? Or how about you expats who are living in the States hailing from somewhere else, what do you notice most about US national holidays? :-)
Take care that celebrating home and host country holidays won't wear you out; and if you're still up for a party, you can check for pertinent dates in Mali (that's where Timbuktu is located) and many other countries on the Earth Calendar. For example, today (Saturday May 23rd) is Labor Day in Jamaica, National Holiday in Morocco, and international World Turtle Day. Extra salad leaves for everyone!
Til next time, don't you dare to drink and drive...
Thanks to Ken Cole for the free pic!