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To The Family I Rarely Get To Celebrate With

Years-full of holidays and birthdays celebrated on my own

By Oneg In The ArcticPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
To The Family I Rarely Get To Celebrate With
Photo by Ambreen Hasan on Unsplash

~Birthdays, New Years, Baby Showers, Graduations, Weddings~

When your whole family lives on the other side of the world, you learn two things:

1. Making friends is really important

2. Sometimes you've got to make it happen, or it just won't 


My parents immigrated to Canada from Israel in the early 90s, giving birth to me in '96. As an only child, my parents made sure I had lots of playdates and tried to expose me to the Jewish community in Toronto as much as possible. Though we weren't religious, I did attend one of the rare Jewish private schools, and attended synagogue a few times a year. My parents tried to make up for my lack of family around me by providing the Jewish bubble. 

Ironically, I stopped believing in G-d in high school, and by the end of it, didn't really identify religiously as Jewish at all. Culturally, I am raised Jewish, but spiritually and religiously- naw.

But let's go back to the main point of this article here:

The holidays were composed of my parents and family friends

Family friends were my second family growing up. They weren't blood relatives but all the adults were my uncles and aunts, their kids- my cousins. I grew up defining family differently because my biological family lived so far away, and it was kind of tough.

My parents couldn't afford to fly to Israel every year that's for sure. So sometimes four years would go by before I'd see my family again. 

I missed birthdays, holidays, weddings, baby showers, graduations, and even funerals. I saw family in a series of snapshots and each photo looked too different.

Often times we'd fly for 2 weeks during the winter break, and my dad would join us for a week due to his work schedule. The holidays felt fractured and rarely restful. We'd try to see as many family members in the short time as we could; which meant limited time with each one. 

As I got older though, I found ways to visit more often. 

In university, I went on a school trip to Israel and got to stay a little longer. Two years after, I flew for my great grandma's 90th birthday. The year after that, I broke up with an ex and booked a last minute trip to Israel as I felt I needed my real family (and to get the hell outta Canada for a bit). Then the following year, I flew from arctic Canada to Israel (like 7 different flights) because my great grandma had an aneurysm and I really wanted to be there with her. 

That was the last time I saw her in person. 

She passed last year in October. I still haven't been able to visit her.

Holidays are hard when your family lives on the other side of the world.

By Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Making friends is really important

I'm really lucky and grateful that I've been able to make good friends along the way. I've met wonderful people, and some friends have stayed longer than others. But they've definitely been the ones there for me during holidays, birthdays, and even my wedding last year.

Speaking of weddings, my first anniversary is coming up on January 3rd! 

And this year I'm finally spending all the holidays in one place with my own lil family: my wife, dog, and cat. 

But back to friends-

Even though I live very far away and in the middle of nowhere, I've been able to find a few good friends. They're the ones who are there for me on the sunny and sad days, and on holidays.

Just this past Sunday I invited my colleagues and friends over for a Hanukkah party, and it was really fun! It was everyone's first Hanukkah, but it was really nice to have a fun-packed home for the holiday. 

It was also kind of extra cool too because my wife and I are doing a legit Christmukkah as she's raised Catholic and I'm raised Jewish. Our home is decorated for both, and our Christmas trees has dreidel ornaments! 

Photo of our Christmukkah Tree

But how do I honor those who couldn't be there?

My parents Facetime'd us last night to light the Hanukkah candles together. Seeing my mom's dreidel collection all over the house for the holiday really cheered me up.

Every holiday, my family and I send memes and pictures of food to one another. Food is a great tool for connection.

Sometimes I wish we would call each other more, but it's been four years since I've seen most of them. The 9 hour time difference also doesn't help. Are those just excuses? Probably…

I honor my heritage in my heart, in my food, in the songs I sing

For example, on Hanukkah you make sufganiyot which are jelly doughnuts and absolutely delicious. When I first moved out of my parents' house, I tired to recreate my grandma's recipe. They turned out DENSE and a bit over-fried. It was great- because it was authentic.

I lost the recipe since, but have been using one from the internet the last two years. They've turned out way better.

Regardless of me not using a family recipe, during the whole baking process I feel my family with me. 

I don't have to make them, I don't have to put in all the work and effort, but I want to.

I honor my family through these traditions. Because traditions are delicious. And traditions matter. 

Sufganiyot made by Author

So whichever holiday you are celebrating, with whomever you have the chance to celebrate with- have fun. Eat good food. Reminisce in the good times. Give thanks to the traditions that helped form you. Share the love and light.

Make it your own, and make it count. 

And if you're on your own or missing someone dear this holiday season, these lights are for you too.

Author's Chanukkiah

Happy Hanukkah~


About the Creator

Oneg In The Arctic

A storyteller and poet of arctic adventures, good food, identity, mental health, and more.

Water is Life ✊

Some other rad writers to check out:

James ❄️ Cathy ❄️ Alex

Mikey ❄️ Judey ❄️ Melissa

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (5)

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  • Keila Aartila25 days ago

    Family is definitely what you make it! :)

  • Gerald Holmes2 months ago

    I loved this. You really got to the heart of it all. Family and friends are everything. Happy holidays and happy anniversary.

  • Absolutely great piece, and happy everything to you

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Wonderful piece. Happy Hanukkah and happy upcoming a anniversary.

  • Happy 1st anniversary - coming up soon!!! I enjoyed your story. Your insights are always great and I can always envision the arctic when you write.

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