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Spend Holidays without Family

I haven't been home for over two years. To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with holidays.

Can’t Go Home

Because of the pandemic, the high price of flights and the unpredictable policy of resisting the virus, going home has become a big problem. When the long holidays are approaching, friends who are closer to home are delighted and ready to go home to reunite with their families, while I often seem to be in a small town and start running around the library and home in two places.

The closest mini holiday to writing this blog was the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays, and we had a total of two weeks off from university. So before the Christmas break started, my friends started to busy themselves with writing assignments, buying gifts for their families, and booking tickets back home, all of them looking happy and cheerful. I, on the other hand, was neither celebrating Christmas nor had any family to visit. It sounds like mine was miserable, but it wasn’t.

Since I have been studying abroad for a long time, I have made some Chinese friends here and we are pretty close. When the long holidays came, we would plan together to go to other countries in Europe for a trip. Last Christmas, I went to Italy with a friend, and a week later, I went back to Germany to celebrate New Year’s Day with other friends.

I’ve been in Germany for a while and have noticed an interesting phenomenon: shopping malls, supermarkets, various stores, and even some restaurants are closed during major holidays. This is not the case in China, where major holidays are a time for everyone to have shopping needs, as well as gather with many friends, so some stores will even extend their opening hours. Because Christmas is not a traditional Chinese holiday, most Chinese or other Asian restaurants are usually open during the Christmas holidays. I  choose to eat Chinese food with my friends on special days, which also happens to relieve my longing for my hometown food.

Then Take a Trip!

I live in a very small town where the university, supermarket, bank, and train station are all within a 15-minute walk. In fact, I enjoy small-town life very much, but when I stay here for a long time, I really want to go away for once when I have a break. There is a German word called Fernweh, which I think is excellent and fits my longing for faraway places.
My final destination for this Christmas vacation was actually Copenhagen. Since I don’t like to fly, I decided to take a bus or train to Copenhagen. I took a 13-hour bus ride to Italy the Christmas before, and the whole trip was a very tiring bus ride. It seemed much better to take the train to my friend’s place in Berlin first, drop off there for two days, and then continue north to Copenhagen.

Once it is started, go through with it! On December 25, the day after Christmas Eve, I took a train to Berlin. Perhaps it was due to the holiday, as the carriages were more crowded. I planned well in advance and reserved myself a seat for the entire journey. I was either sleeping or reading a book during the five or six hour train. The carriage was crowded with people who appeared to have just returned from a special occasion at home or to be rushing to the next location to see other family members and friends. 

The hustle and bustle reminded me of China's "Spring Festival": crowded and sometimes a little cramped. But everyone is enjoying the festival and looking forward to the reunion.

Jinmeng

When I arrived at my friend’s Berlin apartment, there was another visitor besides me: a Chinese student from France. As I said before, how should a short vacation be spent? Travel! She, likes me, came to Berlin on vacation from Paris to live a different life.

After two days in Berlin, I took the bus north. If Christmas is a time to reconnect with family, New Year’s Day is more of a social gathering. I stayed in a hostel with young people from all over the world. I was walking alone in the hallway because I was early and my friends who I had an appointment with hadn’t arrived yet. „Hi, where are you from?“ said a young lady who called me. After a few words, I realized she was German, so we resumed our conversation in German. I assumed that there were fewer German speakers than English, French, or Spanish, thus I rarely used German outside of Germany. However, based on my recent travel experiences, Germans enjoy traveling, so you can encounter German-speaking individuals everywhere you go. Also, German backpackers are quite experienced, and you may get some useful travel advice from them.

No-ending Fireworks

I arrived in Denmark on December 27th, and I had a vague sense of the New Year’s mood from the day I arrived: fireworks were going off as soon as it got dark. Because we didn’t live in the city center, the pub downstairs from the hostel was not extremely packed on New Year’s Day. We planned to go somewhere more active, but the fireworks scared us away. It’s no surprise that the reception personnel advised us a few days before that: while we were out, there were a few guys who appeared to be a little drunk firing off fireworks, which almost fell right next to us. We headed to the hostel, yelling and laughing with one other: we are now sworn friends!

I spent New Year’s Day in Beijing when I was a student there as well. Fireworks are prohibited in the city for safety reasons due to the many high-rise buildings. 

Hearing the fireworks exploding and watching the colorful and fleeting flowers in the sky added to the festive atmosphere.

Jinmeng

„A lonely stranger in a strange land I am cast, I miss my family all the more on every festive day.“ says a Chinese poem. When everyone else is celebrating the holidays, I often feel very lonely. I miss the holidays I spent as a child with my family, the hot dumplings, and the voices of my family. But if I plan my time well, even if I can’t be with my family, I can still have a good holiday: buy myself a small gift, go out to a restaurant with friends, and go on a trip to broaden my horizons. I lost something, but I gained something equally valuable.

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