Who is my family? | Radio Prague International
Since my childhood, Christmas has always been above all a family affair. Whether going to Malaysia to visit extended grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, or crossing Australian state borders by car or plane, it wasn’t Christmas. without at least a number of trips. The trip made the destination even more grand – an emotional build-up towards the climax of Christmas for any child to celebrate with joy.
These days, having settled thousands of miles (approximately) from my immediate family, the concept of travel and reunion is somewhat bittersweet. It is said that absence makes the heart more loving, which is true, but the time we spend together is just too fleeting.
Exacerbated by the current COVID situation around the world, untold numbers of people living abroad face the cold reality of another Christmas without the immediate or extended families we grew up with.
Thus, we are forced to create our own family out of the mishmash of whatever group of friends we find ourselves in.
Whether it’s through church, work, sports teams, social apps, or heck, even meeting people at concerts (remember when concerts were a thing?), Circles of friends that one made in Europe are a hilarious patchwork of lost souls trying to make a living. of their lives as best they can.
There’s the freelance graphic designer who also DJs on weekends, the schoolteacher who came here on a whim, got a job seven years ago and hasn’t left since, the barista who jumps from coffee to coffee like a change of clothes… In addition, there is always, always one or two ERASMUS students floating around, happy to share a free meal with you. It is simply impossible to predict who you will meet in these circles!
Under ordinary circumstances, I would have very little in common with these people. But by necessity of isolation or distance from home, we are linked to each other.
Meeting these seemingly arbitrary horizons is the best way to grow as an individual. Rather than sticking to the same groups of friends or family and the same traditions for the sake of traditions, one can be pushed into unknown and unexpected circumstances.
Last Christmas season we spent some time with such a motley group of friends. We ran a rotating food and drink program over a few days – the classic Czech meal of scallops and potato salad, Korean bulgogi beef and Malaysian curry chicken, and American style pancakes, bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Not only was the experience delightful, we were able to share stories of how each family and culture celebrates Christmas differently. Deeper than that, we might even explore somewhere within ourselves to ruminate on why we celebrate things differently.
Is America’s over-commercialization of life something Europeans identify with? Do Asians Really Prioritize Family Over Everything Else? How do Slovaks perceive Czechs on a daily basis? And the age-old question… why is a landlocked country whose ordinary staple diet consists of pork and carbohydrates so deeply obsessed with carp at Christmas?
The conversations we had were around good wine, good laughs, and overall a great time. All this despite confinement in a year full of bad news.
There is a common saying that has changed meaning over the centuries. We know this as “blood is thicker than water” which means that family bonds will always by default be stronger than those of friendship.
However, the full original quote is meant to be “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the blood of the womb” which has the exact opposite meaning. The bonds we choose as friends can become stronger, more immediate bonds than those we were born into.
Or to quote the great philosopher of our time Dom Toretto: “I have no friends. I have family”.
I know I am fortunate to have had a lucky education with supportive parents and family, but I also know the reality that not all families are like that. Christmas can actually be an extremely lonely time for many. All the more reason to extend a hand in friendship and support to the marginalized and forgotten in society.
Christmas is a time of celebration and reflection. We celebrate the year that has passed, reflect on accomplishments, sympathize with mistakes or regrets, and come together by firelight to exchange gifts. It should be a time of socializing and reuniting friends and family from all over to create fond memories of happiness together. Sometimes this difference between friends and family is not very clear. This should work all the more to our advantage, making the next reunion of friends and family even more enjoyable.
Kevin is an Australian educator and writer who came to Prague for his doctoral studies in Applied Science and lived with “Mother Prague’s sharp claws” for almost a decade. His passion is to explore the intercultural experiences and emerging global face of the Czech Republic as he meets her day in and day out.