By Abhishek Banerjee, KF13, Armenia

This is the first Christmas I will be spending away from home. Even though I left home at 18 and have spent a lot of time travelling on my own, I have always made it back in time for the holidays. Growing up in India, my family never celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday. Instead, it was simply a time for all of us to get together, invite some friends, share a few meals and reminisce about the year gone by. This time around, I will be doing the same with a bunch of expats and some Armenians who find Christmas on December 25th to be amusing enough to get involved.

You see, Armenians follows the Gregorian calendar and as such, Christmas falls on January 6th. As a result, December 25th is just another day for most Armenians. Occasionally, someone will see a foreigner like myself and say ‘Merry Christmas!’, if only to see my reaction. As I sit here on the evening of December 24th, I can’t help but think about Christmas back home.

The music, the lights, the snow and the people make December my favorite month of the year. The malls are packed, vacations are being planned and parties are being juggled. People are happy, even if it is a bit artificial at times. In any other year, I would be spending the last few days desperately trying to go through my list of gifts and confirming my social calendar. This time around, my calendar is completely open and somewhat surprisingly, I don’t mind.

Sometimes, being fully immersed in your surrounding prevents you from putting it in perspective. This year, being away from home has made me realize the things I truly cherish about the holidays as opposed to the social commitments I feel obligated to keep.  For most Armenians, January 6th is a day to be spent with family, first with your own and then visiting your cousins and friends. The gifts, while still exchanged, is a secondary part for most families.

In the States, Christmas celebrations seem to move ahead by a few days every year. Long before the day itself, the carols in every shopping, eating and drinking establishment start to get repetitive. The seasonal sales, the holiday parties and the weekend trips have helped define my Christmas experience over many years. However, as I celebrate my first Christmas away from home, I don’t miss the commercialization of Christmas, just my loved ones. And maybe, after this year, I will appreciate this time of the year a little bit differently.

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Abhishek Banerjee is a Kiva Fellow (KF13) currently based in Yerevan, Armenia.  Want to volunteer with the Kiva Fellows Program?  Learn more here and apply to be a Fellow!

Click here to join the Armenia lending group on Kiva!

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