Merry Christmas! by Janice Carter

By the time this post is read, I hope most, if not all of you, will be lolling on a sofa or relaxing by a fire, grateful for the end of a busy few days. For those who celebrate Christmas, this is a roller-coaster holiday in more ways than the obvious ones of shopping, cooking and cleaning. There are the emotional and sentimental moments that creep up on us when our guards are down. But that is the essence of life itself, isn't it?
                                                         
    My Christmas this year was bittersweet (the recent death of one of my brothers and the birth of my first grandchild) and that led to thoughts of past Christmases when I was away from family.
    Several years ago (before kids, mortgage, etc.etc.) my husband and I left Canada to travel the world. We were gone 3 1/2 years! Our first Christmas away was spent in Istanbul, Turkey and, as predominantly Muslim country, December 25 was merely a day like any other. No turkey. No decorations. No signs of Christmas at all. It was our very first time away from family at Christmas and we missed them terribly. But we enjoyed a celebratory dinner of fasulye (bean soup) and falafel with another traveler, toasting the day with mint tea.
    Another Christmas away was spent in Nepal trekking to the Annapurna Sanctuary in the Himalayas. Lentils, rice and curried squash comprised our Christmas meal after a long day of hiking and it's still - in my memory - one of the most delicious meals ever. I scarcely missed my family that year....too exhausted!
                                                               
    A year later, our Christmas away was unforgettable...but in a bad way. We'd arrived in the northern city of Darwin, Australia in 1974, a month before Christmas, in search of work and adventure. We found the work quickly enough, but the adventure wasn't what we'd been looking for. The seasons are reversed 'down under' and Christmas is in the 'wet' season...monsoon time. A week before Christmas Day, there were many warnings of imminent cyclones - basically a hurricane south of the equator. The city of Darwin closed down early on Christmas Eve and we too, left our evening jobs cleaning a local government building. We'd never experienced a hurricane or cyclone before and had no idea how to prepare. At the time, we were renting a room in a boarding house and other residents advised us to leave our windows slightly ajar so the air pressure wouldn't blow them in. That was our only preparation!
    Cyclone Tracy struck the city at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve - at least, that's when the power went out - and raged until 6 a.m. Christmas Day.  Much of the city, especially the suburbs, was destroyed. We wandered the devastated city with hundreds of other now-homeless survivors. Christmas dinner was ice cream, handed out by a truck driver eager to unload his haul before it melted. They were tumultuous times that we will never forget - witnessing the best and the worst of human behavior - and those months afterwards left us with a lasting sense of the real importance of life.
                                                             
     Our very last Christmas away - to date - is a much happier memory. We traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland where one of our daughters was studying. We were too enthralled with the magic of the place to miss our family and our traditional Christmas back home. No turkey? Blood pudding! Deep-fried Mars bars???? The highlight was New Year's - or Hogmanay - and a torchlight procession of costumed, masked warriors, male and female - think Braveheart! - down the Royal Mile.
    I am happy to be home this year and look forward to many other Christmases at home with my family - small and large. I hope all of you had a chance to be with, or to connect with in any way, loved ones. That's what it's all about, right?

Happy Holidays!

Janice Carter




Comments

  1. Merry Christmas to you! I've spent too many Christmases away from family since my work has often made it impossible to head "home." But there's usually a moment, somewhere and at some point, that captures something special. I appreciated the story of your Christmases abroad. During Grad School, I spent Thanksgiving in Paris and ate chicken cous cous at a restaurant.

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    1. So true, Callie, your comment about that moment that captures something special. And those times when we’re away really make the ‘home’ holiday visits noteworthy.

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  2. Thanks--love your stories of the holiday in other places. I'm not much on traditions, so all these unusual types of celebrations sound like terrific opportunities to have great fun. We did Swedish-Quaker Christmas last night, doing "Jewish Christmas" today, Chinese food and maybe a movie. That's always a great time, too. And Happy New Year a little early to everyone!

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    1. I love hearing about different traditions, especially food ones (😜😜) Virginia so sometime explain the Swedish Quaker tradition in your family! Happy Holidays!

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  3. What amazing adventures! Merry Christmas, Janice.

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    1. They were, Beth, but home is always best for me. Happy Holidays!

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  4. Janice, you certainly built a resume of adventure. I'm glad you were able to spend holidays this year at home with loved ones. Memories like yours make good fodder for books, but I know you also add in the treasured feelings of love and family.

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    1. I love that expression, Roz, a resume of adventures! I suppose aging has something to do with the magic of memories these days (😨😨) but they also make what I have in the here and now so much more precious. All the best!

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  5. Merry Christmas, Janice! I'm sorry for the sad part of the holiday this year, but glad you were with family for it.

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    1. Thanks Patty....nothing better than family. Happy Holidays!

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