Holidays Abroad - Holidays in Malawi
Posted on 04 November 2017
Halloween has quickly passed and it got me thinking about all the holidays I’ve missed since living abroad.
Halloween was a challenging one for me, mostly because I’m not creative enough to come up with an elaborate costume made from easily accessible materials, so I went with a cat. Ok fine, judge me if you want to, but I didn’t have much time to prepare, and it’s not like I can go to a costume store to pick out the latest costume. I don’t have spare clothing I can cut up and piece together, I don’t have fake blood or hair dye that I can buy at a drug store. I live in a village, and even the “big” city has limited resources when it comes to costume ideas. In most parts of the world, Halloween is not a thing, like a lot of North American holidays that we cherish so much. Funny enough, I don’t really miss them.
Next up is Thanksgiving in the United States. Last year, I celebrated with a bunch of Peace Corp. volunteers who lived in villages around my area. It was an experience trying to get the proper food in order to cook some sort of a Thanksgiving feast. The electricity was off all day, which meant we had to cook on the local charcoal stoves. No roasted turkey, or vegetables, or anything else that needed an oven. We managed to make some amazing garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, chicken, canned beans (that was an improv), and all in all, it turned out to be quite the meal.
Last year, I spent Christmas in my village with no family from back home. I had never had a Christmas without family and it was an amazingly humbling experience. Seeing people from the village dress in their very best attire, listen to music blasting from the broken speakers in the trading areas, and chatting with friends was their extent of Christmas. I did not receive a single gift, but instead, spent the night with some friends I had made in the village. We made a delicious meal and it was a “Christmas Miracle” we had electricity all evening. I taught them how to cook “western” food and we ate, chatted and danced the night away.
My birthday is really close to Christmas, but in Canada my family always managed to do something special and celebrate my birthday. I was in the capital city of Malawi (Lilongwe) for my birthday last year, and I went to a nice restaurant with one of my co-workers. Like Christmas, I did not receive a single gift, or card. Lots of love was sent from my family back home, but nothing in-county. I do have friends here, I swear! But Malawians (especially in the village) don’t celebrate birthdays, most people don’t even know when they were born. The culture is slowly starting to change and the younger kids are starting to know, but when you grow up with no calendar or phone, what’s the point of knowing a birthday anyways?
One thing that all these holidays abroad have in common is that it brings people together no matter where you live in the world. We don’t always have the fancy decorations and foods that we can get at home, but it’s an experience to try and make things work with what you have, and it usually turns out quite well! People who are fortunate enough to be with loved ones during holidays are truly lucky. But also, coming from an expat who has missed countless birthdays, Thanksgivings’ and even Christmas, it’s not the end of the world if you spend a holiday without family, it actually gives you an opportunity to view holidays with a totally different outlook. One that is very humbling.
Co-Founder Global Citizen Designs