Christmas away from home.

Every holiday, but in particular Christmas, is billed as a time to be with family and friends.  By travelling for months every winter, we have made the default choice to be away from family and, for the most part, friends.  Rather than dwelling on that, we enjoy some local holiday traditions and mixing in a few of our own.

Decoration from Leona Mayer

A gift from my friend, Leona; this is one of my treasured decorations waiting for a time when I decorate once again.

I love a decorated house.  The lights and the sparkle, the garland and special decorations with memories attached.  Several years ago, I gave up on decorating a tree.  We had cats.  Monster became the enemy of my tree.  She would be fine all day while we were at work, but as soon as I came home and tried to put my feet up, she would climb up the tree and knock down a decoration or two (almost exclusively the glass balls which would shatter into a million shards).  This just wasn’t a fun game for me, so I gave up.  I soon decided that I didn’t miss that day when decorations had to be taken down and stored away.  Now, of course, having a tree with cherished decorations would be impossible.  I’ve already given up that tradition for the time being, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out while we’re away from home.

Another Christmas standard that we’ve given up is the big Christmas meal.  Some years ago, my sister came up with the brilliant idea of going out for dim sum for Christmas, so we joined her family one year, and it was great fun!  No worrying about how long to cook the turkey, no last minute gravy prep, no clean-up, and no fridge full of leftovers for ages.  It was just fun time together and good food.  Once we hit the road, it was impossible for us to roast a turkey and do the standard array of side dishes in our tiny trailer kitchen.  What to have that is just good, fun food?  We love appetizers, so our Christmas meal has now become an assortment of fun finger food.  Sometimes we buy the frozen ready made variety; sometimes, like this year, we make our own.  It’s always different and it’s always fun.

One new thing we tried this year was to go to the local pub.  I can hear it now: Oh, girls, any excuse to go for a drink!  Just bare with me a moment.  The typical British pub is entirely different from the North American bar.  In many neighbourhoods, there are little pubs around almost every corner.  These tend to be casual gathering places for friends and neighbours.  Entire families (children included) will gather at the pub for a meal.  The pub seems to be as much or more about socializing as it is about having a drink.  The good ones have very warm and welcoming atmospheres with people chatting from table to table.  It just feels very neighbourly.

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In addition to hoping for a little socializing, we were actually hoping to go out for dinner (Christmas Eve also happens to be our wedding anniversary, and we thought this would be a nice way to celebrate).  Forget that!  The place was packed!  It was standing room only (and we actually had to watch where we stood, so we didn’t step on a little girl and her colouring book!).  There were Christmas sweaters (jumpers) and merry wishers all around.  I was quite surprise; I just can’t imagine going to the bar on Christmas Eve at home, but apparently it’s quite the thing here, so we’ve done that bit properly!

We never did manage to get a meal (nice try, ladies), but we did spend a very nice evening visiting with some friendly locals.  In case you’re worried, we eventually enjoyed a lovely Anniversary/Christmas Eve dinner of quesadillas in front of the telly… we sure know how to live large!

From famine to feast:  Karen and I decided, years ago, that we wouldn’t exchange actual gifts at Christmas.  We always discuss major purchases (OK, we discuss almost every purchase), so there would never be any surprise ‘grand gesture’ presents for us.  We aren’t huge consumers, so buying for the sake of buying really goes against the grain.  We truly feel like we have so much already; what more could we want or need?  Well, we do love treats and goodies, so we do stocking stuffers… at times, the mountain of candies and cookies (oh, and the odd magazine or book) reaches epic proportions and is a bit embarrassing.  Ah, but it’s fun and it’s our tradition.

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Disclaimer: this year a couple of generous friends contributed to our selection of treats!

(Mom, we will do our very best to pace ourselves!)

We try to find treats that are new and different to us, and we almost never double up and give each other the same items.  There ends up being a lot of sharing and we laugh about our shared gluttony.  It really is a good thing that we walk so much!

As much as I disparage technology, I have to say that being able to connect with our loved ones through Skype, facebook, email, and so on has become very important to us.  We are thankful for the ability to share good wishes with people we care about the world wide.  It really is amazing.

So, I suppose, as much as each Christmas is very different for us, we retain the elements that are the most important to us.

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