Many Christmasses I’ve spent with family, although not my own

finding christmasIt’s getting ever colder, in many countries the first snow has already fallen and we’re all walking around like dressed-up snowmen and –women. This means that Christmas is about to begin. Trees are begin set up and the stores are full of people buying Christmas presents. Everyone is looking forward to the warm family dinner and unwrapping presents at home beside the Christmas tree. Not everyone though. For there to be a nice, big and warm family dinner, there has to be a family that celebrates Christmas. As much as it pains me to admit, I have to say that, family wise, my situation isn’t exactly that fortunate. Sure, I have family, but my parents don’t celebrate Christmas. Christmas is the time that I always have loved, but never really could enjoy with my family the way I wanted to. And as Dutch people go, they are not keen on non-family members at their family reunions. While during these white and cold but warm days everyone spends his time inside with his own family, I’m used to walking around in empty streets or sitting at home, not being able to go to a bar or any store whatsoever, since everything is closed. Better said, I used to do that. A couple of years ago I found a solution to my lonesomeness during Christmas: I’m just going to celebrate Christmas elsewhere, in another country.

Christmas in Hungary

One summer, when I was visiting England, I made two friends from Budapest, Hungary. We kept in touch through email and at some point one of us got the idea that I should visit Hungary. Being me, I didn’t wait too long with looking for transport and accommodation. One of my friends offered me to stay at her place for a week, which was right in Budapest. This was when I got the idea of leaving Holland for Christmas and celebrating it somewhere else. I discussed this with my friends, and they were happy to have me over at their family dinner for Christmas. So I went there for two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and one of my friends took me to her family’s place. I had an amazing time. Nobody of the family spoke English, and my friend could translate when necessary, but just being with each other was basically enough. I stayed there throughout Christmas. I had my own room and breakfast was ready every morning. I had never been in such a welcoming and friendly place and I had never had such an amazing, warm and white Christmas.

Christmas in Russia

christmas in Russia moscowThe next year I found myself a chance to celebrate Christmas in Vologda, Russia and also in Riga, Latvia. In November I had had two couchsurfers over. They, and me, were lucky I could host them, because they emailed me the night of their arrival. I had by chance just gotten home, and by chance checked my couchsurfing profile. We had a great time, we became friends, and they invited me over at their place in Moscow. Obviously I took them up on their offer and decided to go there almost right away, in December. In the meantime I had coincidently met someone from Riga, Latvia and we decided that I would come to Riga during the winter holidays. After talking on facebook for a while, we had become friends and I could stay with her family. I went to Riga right before Christmas and celebrated it with her family. Again it was such a warm welcome, sharing and caring, and a warm Christmas celebration with a previously unknown family and this time the parents did speak English. Now Russia is originally Orthodox Christian and they follow the Gregorian calendar, which means that Christmas isn’t celebrated on December 24, but on January 7. So after my visit to Riga, I went to Russia and celebrated Christmas again. I was staying at my friends’ place in Moscow, and for Christmas they took me to their family. Like in Hungary, nobody of the family spoke English, but that didn’t matter, my friends could translate when necessary, but the fact that we didn’t speak the same language didn’t mean we couldn’t eat together and enjoy the company. This year I celebrated two Christmases, with two different families from two different countries. What they had in common was that I didn’t know any of them but the friends I had made a month earlier, and again amazing warmth, friendliness and hospitality.

Christmas in Spain

christmas in las palmas de gran canariaThe year after that I lived in Las Palmas of Gran Canaria, Spain. I was doing an exchange year through my university, and I didn’t return to Holland for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Fortunately there were a lot of students who were staying, so with a number of friends we made plans for Christmas. On Christmas Eve we had an enormous dinner at my place with 24 people, where everyone brought a typical national dish. You can imagine what the apartment must have looked like after 24 people had been eating there. The next day we did a treasure hunt throughout the city with a smaller group of friends. Together with a friend I had organized it and it was amazing. This Christmas had not been about official family, but about friends that temporarily become your family. It was amazing to be able to organize a Christmas dinner myself and that so many friends, and even people I didn’t know, attended it. The treasure hunt with my friends the day after was just as great and part of Christmas as the dinner on Christmas Eve.

And Christmas in Slovenia

And this year I’m going to celebrate Christmas with my girlfriend and her family in Slovenia. For four years in a row now I’ve had my wish fulfilled and celebrated Christmas with friends and family. It may not have been my own family, but to me that didn’t matter. My wish was celebrating Christmas in a nice and warm environment, and for all I knew with a family. And through travelling, coincidence, luck, initiative and spontaneity I had my wish fulfilled. I celebrated Christmas four times in three years, in Hungary, Latvia, Russia, and Spain, with family or surrogates for it. I’m not sure if it could have been any better. MallienTravelling and CultureMany Christmasses I've spent with family, although not my own It’s getting ever colder, in many countries the first snow has already fallen and we’re all walking around like dressed-up snowmen and –women. This means that Christmas is about to begin. Trees are begin set up and the stores are...Bezinning op het controversiële - Tijd voor een nuchtere beschouwing