Now that the hustle and bustle of the Holidays are over, I finally have the time to reflect on how truly amazing they were! Since moving to Panama, one of the many questions I am asked is, “Don’t you miss your family and friends during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, birthdays, etc.?” Truthfully, this was one of the many subjects that came up when my family and I were considering moving to another country.
Like many families, though, when the matriarch and/or patriarch passes away, the entire family dynamic shifts and every individual “unit” starts celebrating holidays a little differently as well as creating their own new traditions. My family is no different as my husband and I have lost both of our parents: Thanksgiving/Christmas of 2015 was our first without any of them and our first being outside of the U.S. As most “firsts” are, after the passing of loved ones, it was extremely hard.
We were living in a resort area of Panama and there were very few people who lived there full time. Although we made some amazing friends, we spent that first Christmas alone – just my husband, 12 year old son and myself. Right after Christmas, we made the decision to move to another part of Panama where there were more children and a lot of activities for all of us. In January of 2016 we moved to Boquete where we currently live and oh what a difference a year, and new location, has made!
This Holiday season was so very different from last year! The quaint little town we live in was decorated so beautifully especially the town square which had many trees and a multitude of lights! The friends we have made here made it especially wonderful as they have now become our family! My son turned 13 on December 23, so we had one of the first birthday parties he has ever really had, aside from the family dinners with cake and ice cream, and one other nightmare party at Chuck E. Cheese when he was 4! Having a birthday so close to Christmas always meant, at least in the States, that no one was ever in town for his birthday or they were at their own family parties. This year, we had it at a local restaurant in Boquete called Black & White where the owners have become like family to us! We celebrated with a karaoke party with almost 20 people from 5 different countries!
Christmas Eve dinner was spent with our neighbors and friends at a neighbor’s house and Christmas dinner was at the house of the owner of the company where my husband works followed by a huge Christmas parade through the town! New Year’s Eve was very eventful, too!! We rang in the New Year at the same restaurant where we had my son’s party. All of the owner’s family was there and we were treated just like we were one of them! At midnight we toasted with champagne and shot fireworks with the rest of Panama! New Year’s Day, which is also my birthday, was celebrated with a delicious dinner with our neighbors and friends!
I have always heard that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family! Until we moved to Panama, I believed that to be true.
Now, though, the friends we have chosen have become our family. Because of all of them, our holidays, special events, and even our day to day life, have been made so much better! Yes, I still miss my family, especially my parents, but these amazing people remind me I’m not alone. They have become our surrogate moms, dads, abuelas/abuelos (grandparents), sisters, aunts. I am truly grateful to have each and every one of them in my life!