I was never a big fan of those traditional celebrations we have back at home in Bulgaria. I hate how all we do for Easter is paint eggs (sure, fine when you are a kid but you can quickly grow out of it), eat lamb meat (again- not a fan), and make those overly sweet breads. I am not a fan of what we have to do on Christmas eve (only vegan food all day, and no, Bulgarian cuisine is not made to be vegan!)…and not a fan of many other small traditions like these. So, ever since I left the country almost 4 years ago, i have not really looked back with nostalgia over all these traditions.
However, it gets to you. You give up holiday after holiday, and try to hold on to the really precious ones but it gets more and more difficult. Maybe because most of my friends here are other expats and their way is different from mine, and yet different from the local. So I gave up Christmas, gave up Easter. However, I am still struggling to get cheerful about my name day. In many countries people do have a name day but I don’t think in any other country they are celebrated to the same extent as back in Bulgaria. After all, it is an extra day in the year you get celebrated, and the best part is you do not have to get older. Unfortunately, these days I myself barely remember when my name day is (the tricky part is that it is always the Sunday before Easter, and Easter changes every year). So I don’t celebrate it anymore. I just don’t feel like going around informing people I have an occasion to celebrate and expect greetings, niceties and all that jazz. And it’s not like I don’t have good friends around here, because I think I am lucky enough to say that I do but apprently they never seem to remember from year to year, or from gentle hints and insinutaions from my part. And it does make you feel alone. And it does get to you. It probably should not bother me much but it does bother me, or more precisely- it does disappoint me because I do have the expectations, I guess because I always try to act accordingly and really do my best to make some people’s days special. And the worst thing is that over time this gets worse. At first I did not care about a name day. Then year after year, something within you changes, and something else fights back not to change, and clings on these little rituals and traditions as a way to preserve this part from the past that defines where you come from. Or maybe only a birthday is not enough and I need more days when people shower me with niceness.
Then the big ones- Christmas and Easter… I somehow managed to spent Christmas with the family (except for one year but then I had a blast of a party) and Easter…I had kind of given it up. But this year, we were blessed with good weather (22C for April in the Netherlands is pretty much as best as it can get), so I took time off from this overwhelming, brain-murdering work load of mine and just tried to enjoy myself. With a couple of my dearest friends around we went for a trip to the flower fields (the photo is from there; or just check in google the national geographic’s Flower route in the Netherlands to see for yourself), which was a challenge and an amazing award at the same time, and then had a proper breakfast with my flatmate before riding off on our bikes along the canals of sunny Amsterdam, enjoying the sun.
So, when home, traditions, and holidays have become more of a blur, you just have to work with the best you’ve got around. This means, accepting some of the local traditions, giving up on some of your own, sticking to your most favourite ones, and persistently year after year, if you must, keep on explaining to people why the hell you are wearing a bracelet made of white and red thread on first of March (and throughout march; it’s called martenitsa), keep on informing them you have a name day and they should greet you, wish you well, give you presents and drop by unannounced (because for a b-day you need an invite, but NOT for a name day since all of your friends do know your name and do know it is your special day), and those who do not- well, hold it against them and just punish them by ignoring some of their special days. And sometimes it means you have to go alone through all of it- I mean celebrate holidays alone- then it’s alright as well. The important part is not to feel sorry for yourself in such a moment because the road from aloneness to self-pity is short. And you better be by yourself than with the wrong people, you develop a thicker skin. I do love these moments, I’ve read some of the best literature on such days. And listened to some quality music. But the people who matter, and you want to stay in your life, will find a way to be there. The rest is just temporary madness.