Christmas Away from Home



By Bob & Melissa Hill

In 1985 we moved to Japan with our 9 year old daughter and 3 year old twins. We were told we couldn’t have a Christmas tree, so what to do?! We told Melissa’s mother our predicament, and she totally surprised us by sending us a ceramic nativity set that SHE MADE!!! One piece was shattered when it arrived, but Bob carefully glued it back together.

36 years later, we still set that nativity out! Eventually, a Japanese friend said for us to “be American” and our Christmas traditions began! Being a family with young children, we took the few Christmas ornaments we had with us so there would be some memories of home. Our children remember all the baking and cooking around the holiday – memories! We invited our neighbors into our home for Christmas songs and stories – memories. One year we hired a community center and had our children English students perform the Christmas Story (one side of the stage was set up with modern Christmas tree and a family (Japanese) telling the first Christmas story, the other half of the stage we enacted the story)-memories. 

Once we had so many Japanese visitors for our Christmas play in our house, we had to take our sliding doors to our garden off and set up chairs for the overflow. We were packed to say the least!-memories! We made memories for our family. Memories are forever!

Then, in 1995 we moved to Scotland. By the time we moved to Scotland, the twins were 13. Our oldest daughter stayed in America to go to university – our first Christmas without the whole family. There were tears! Our first Christmas, several of the neighbors wanted to go caroling and give out mince pies (a mini pie the size of a cupcake-fruitcake without the cake) and hot drinks door to door. Well….we learned that night that though we sing the same Christmas songs, we do not sing them to the same tune! It took us awhile to acquaint ourselves to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Eventually we moved into Overtoun House and had Christmas programs open to the community. We baked and baked and baked some more! Our good friend, the mayor of our shire, Denis, read “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas. Our question: who is Dylan Thomas?? You adjust! These events included songs, raffles, Dylan Thomas, and a tombola. What is a tombola, we asked? The tombola was created in Italy for Christmas as a version of bingo. In Scotland, you draw a number and if it matches the prise, you win. If  you lose, you get a piece of candy. As I said, we baked and baked. After these events, we made trays of food and gave them to the post man, took them to schools for the teachers and to local businesses. 

We’ve only been back “home” 3 times in 35 years. But, honestly, we love our traditions we’ve started overseas! Like reading “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (I cry every time!) And now our adult kids read it to their children. Like Christmas Crackers at Christmas meals in our hallway. Sharing loads of food with family and friends. Memories! Traditions! Christmas! Oh yeah…and we wake up really early on Christmas morning…Esther calls it “the butt-crack of dawn”! How early? Well, 6am is considered late! Oh yeah number 2…We always have Cinnamon Rolls, homemade, and bacon for breakfast!

                                                   Happy Christmas to you all!