Expat Living: Happy New Year! Embracing Each Other and Sharing Traditions

Aaahhh, yes… This is what happiness feels like!2016 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Image - United Sikh Mission float

I love New Year’s Day.

Many people feel a let down near Christmas because they “aren’t ready,” feel stressed or are worried about finances and so on. But New Year’s is welcoming.

That’s what I like most about New Year’s Day in the USA.  All the stress and fuss is gone, and New Year’s Day is a time to relax (and for many of us, that includes football!)

If you were born in or grew up in California, you know there is another tradition that accompanies the new year: for now 127 years, it has been time for the annual Tournament of Roses parade and the Rose Bowl Game pitting the Big Ten against the Pac-12 college football conferences.

I love that we start the new year with tradition. I love that we have family memories of being near Pasadena California and watching the parade along with 85 million of our world’s neighbors.

But I always wonder what people in other countries thing of our extravagances with flowers. I remember in Baku when we had our annual Independence Day Picnic, the local Azerbaijani friends didn’t understand our “Watermelon Toss” game.  “Why are you playing with food?” they asked us.  (Smile!)

As a traveler, an expat, /a repat, a Triangle, I’ve really appreciate the diversity of cultures around the world. Sometimes though, it left me feeling like everywhere else is “exotic” and America is, well, plain vanilla.

Going through that long, arduous repatriation did manage to instill an appreciation of what I had absorbed from everywhere else I had been, and to actually recognize those same elements in America, adapted and evolved into something uniquely American.

In today’s parade I was amazed to see floats in stunning detail from the American Armenian Rose Float Association, depicting many of the most famous landmarks in Armenia, and a float from the United Sikh Mission.

This parade celebrates not commercialism that can be bought anywhere in plastic or inflatable displays, but rather volunteerism- whole communities and interest groups getting together to make things by hand- each rose, de-thorned and de-leafed, then inserted into a vial of water (and 7-Up oddly enough- I learned that this morning!), by a volunteer.

Not paid, not named, not credited in any way. No gain, no glory- other than the immense pride of watching the beauty of the floats, and knowing that’s “my handiwork bringing joy to millions”… That’s the America I love.

Here is a highlight clip from 2013 with an expat-appropriate theme, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

These are just a few of the reasons I love New Year’s Day.

Catching up with far-away friends and family like you, well that’s another one.

Thank you for sharing your lives and travel adventures with me this past year (or more).

I enjoy your adventures as much as I do reminiscing about my own. Be safe and travel well, my friends.

And when next New Year’s Day arrives, wherever you may be, at 8am Los Angeles time remember we have a date to share old memories- whatever the next Parade theme is!

Something in next year’s Parade will remind us of a warm memory we once shared.

Here’s wishing you all the best in 2016. May our paths cross frequently, if only by blog, tweet or …?

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benedikt julian zacher.

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