Today we travel all over the world with the lovely C. of Small Dog Syndrome. When we first met I asked her where she was from and her answer went something like this: “Do you mean where was I born, or where did I spend my childhood years or my teenage years, or where are both of my parents from, or where did I live the longest, or where have I lived the most recently, or where am I living now?” I knew we were meant to be. For the record, I never have any idea how to answer that question either. Of course, hopping all over the world means you collect quite the stash of Christmas traditions. Enjoy your round-the-world trip!
I’ve lived in Belgium, Germany and England where we have Sinterklaas (a Dutch variation on St. Nicholas), the Christkind (the Christ Child), and Father Christmas who all deliver presents rather than Santa Claus.
Living on Guam was weird because it’s practically on the equator, so some people paid exorbitant money to have real pine trees shipped in, but they inevitably arrived brown and dead so that’s when we took to plastic trees instead. But we lived on a road on an Air Force base called Officer’s Row (because it was where all the Lt. Colonels, Colonels, and the General lived) that traditionally went all out for Christmas. Every house tried to come up with outrageous decorations (Santa flying in an F-15 model on a wire that swooped between palm trees, etc.) and the weekend before Christmas the whole base, expat, and political communities would walk the street to take in the sight and basically “trick or treat” for holiday goodies.
My family always celebrates St. Nicholas Day by leaving treats in the kids’ shoes, and I fully intend on doing it with my own.
We have a special Christmas morning breakfast (eaten strictly only after we’ve opened and gone through our stockings) of a sort of baked french toast with peaches and pecans, and we have a standing rib roast for Christmas Eve dinner (which is our big meal). And there are always British poppers and paper crowns involved. We’ve tended to pick up dishes from everywhere we’ve lived so we have a Belgian style Yule Log Cake at some point in the season – and a pot of Virgina recipe wassail bubbles away on the stove for the entirety of December.
One year we went abroad and spent Christmas skiing and snowboarding near Salzburg in Austria, and we all said it was great, but didn’t feel at all like Christmas so as much as we liked it, we vetoed Christmas abroad in the future.
When I was very young and still an only child, I found a scrap of torn red fabric in the fireplace grate and a partial sooty footprint. It kept me going with Santa faith for years. I haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to do Santa Claus with my kids as the deliverer of gifts, but I am definitely going to find a way to tie him in as the personification of the spirit of the holiday (Father Christmas style).
I love going to Christmas Mass, though not a practicing Catholic, I’ve always found it a beautiful and spiritual uplifting experience. I want to add more faiths to my holiday religious repertoire. I love the universality of the spirit of the season, whether religiously based or not. Almost everywhere in the world there’s a time of year that’s more difficult than the rest, and for some reason midwinter in particular brings out a lot of goodwill in people, in what’s supposed to be the deadest, darkest part of the year. You don’t need to be a person of faith to think that’s just neat.
Thank you, C.! Are you all drooling with wanderlust like I am? I wanna try Christmas on Guam! I think we can all relate to the “universality of the spirit of the season” well, no matter where we are or what we celebrate. And I think I need that recipe for peach pecan french toast . . .