Now in reality, we know and do our best to practice the true meaning of Christmas. In our family, we go to church on Christmas Eve and celebrate the birth of the Christ child who brings peace and love to all the world. That said, we have a real tendency to be VERY generous with one another at Christmas time. Anyone who has visited us during the holidays can attest to this. The gifts under our tree are usually overflowing. In our defense, we do not spend a lot on “extras” during the year. We tend to put off until Christmas both things that we really need and some special “wants” that we wouldn’t justify buying for ourselves, hoping that someone else might give it to us as a Christmas gift. We also buy each other socks and underwear and put them under the Christmas tree. Yes, we are that practical. But I have to admit that we do enjoy the material giving of (many) gifts as part of how we celebrate Christmas when we are in our own home. For better or worse, it is a tradition that we have fostered over many years. Celebrating Christmas while traveling, however, brings new meaning to our annual celebration.
This year we were in Blandford Forum, England for Christmas. We bought a tiny little Christmas tree at a local nursery. The gentleman who sold it to us “knocked 5 quid off” because we bought it so close to Christmas Eve. We are housesitting in a lovely home, but it is not ours and we do not have any of our own Christmas decorations. We do not have the tree ornaments that our children made when they were in grade school, the picture ornament from when I was pregnant with Chelsea, David’s little Christmas train or the other special items that we have procured over the years. Each one has personal and very special meaning to us, and they are all in a storage unit in Ohio. The homeowners here generously allowed us to decorate with some of their items and Chelsea and Sam brought their stockings which helped to put us in a festive mood.
An important tradition in our family is to listen to Christmas music AFTER Thanksgiving. Well, Thanksgiving takes on new meaning when you are traveling abroad – there is no Thanksgiving in England so you don’t have that day to mark the time like we do in the States. Nevertheless, we waited until after American Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas music. Greg is so good about making sure we have music in our home, wherever home might be. Spotify helped us to enjoy wonderful Christmas music every day leading up to the holiday.
But we don’t need anything and we can’t travel with more than we already have, so that really helped to prevent us from buying more stuff.
We got to celebrate with Chelsea and Sam! They joined us in our temporary home in Blandford. David will join us in Bristol and we will celebrate together again when he is here in January, but for Christmas, it was just the four of us. We did what we usually do on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day – but with less stuff and even more meaning. We attended Evensong services on Christmas Eve at Salisbury Cathedral. It was beautiful, moving and memorable. We made our traditional cinnamon rolls to enjoy In the morning. We opened the few gifts that were under the tree – mostly consumables. And we made an absolutely extraordinary meal. We recreated a dinner we enjoyed at Momofuku in New York City a number of years ago – steamed pork buns, which we ate in the afternoon, and roasted glazed duck with ginger scallion pancakes for Christmas dinner. It was a relaxing day that we spent with family. We played board games and drank champagne by the fire while discussing life. It was wonderful – all without the abundant number presents of years past.
Over the years we have celebrated Christmas in Austria, Belize, Denmark and now the United Kingdom. Each time we have missed family and friends and some of our usual traditions, but we learned more about how others celebrate Christmas, while concentrating on the love which surrounds us, which is most important. These times have given us a real chance to step back from how we typically celebrate and truly realize that Christmas does indeed mean more than what we can get from a store (even though of course, we like that too). Here’s hoping you had a wonderful, meaningful Christmas however and wherever you celebrated!
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