This is our first Christmas as expats and while I know many people in similar situations often struggle with being away from “home” for the holidays, I don’t really suffer that same sense of melancholy. Growing up, my parents were divorced as so I had two very different Christmas experiences – the big, loud boisterous one with my dad, stepmom, and her family, and the quiet, laid back, small one with my mom, my grandparents, and my uncle’s family. (New Year’s Day with the Rose Bowl was the big winter holiday on that side of my family.)
Later, when I met Alan, we started spending Christmas with his parents and brothers. Then, as they got married and had to split time between us and their wives’ families, Christmas once again became a bit disjointed. Some years Christmas itself was so difficult to coordinate that we ended up having what we termed “Christmas 2” in early January when everyone was around and settled. And then the kids started showing up, Christmas became more about them than anything else. And since we don’t have kids … well, let’s just say for the sake of brevity that being the only childless couple at a holiday where everyone focuses on the children can sometimes feel less than festive. I *love* opening presents and watching people to see if they love what we spent time and care picking out for them. All of that falls by the wayside when you’ve got a bunch of boys ripping through wrapping paper and trying to outdo one another. The last few years I just haven’t felt so jolly.
Actually, a couple of years back when we knew both of Alan’s brothers wouldn’t be around for Christmas, we took a two week trip to Tofino and did a quiet Christmas with just the two of us. Confession? It was my absolute favorite Christmas ever. We went out for a fancy Christmas Eve dinner, walked on the beach, and then sat by the fire watching Christmas movies and drinking spiked egg nog. On Christmas morning we woke up early and opened our presents to one another, went for another walk on the beach, drank more egg nog, watched more movies, and then cooked a beautiful prime rib dinner for two. I went to bed that night thinking that it was what I wanted to do every year from then on out.
So now when people meet us and ask if we’re going back to the U.S. for Christmas, I shake my head, smile big, and say, “nope.” It’s just the two of us – our little family (sans our beloved cat Dakota who passed away in May after spending 15 years with us) – and we’re here in Dublin, a city we’ve both come to love in just two short months, in a house that can only be described as my Dream Home (capital letters), and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Some people have looked at me like it’s the saddest thing they’ve ever heard, but it’s not. I promise. We are not lacking for Christmas spirit around these parts.
In fact, we just got back from a weeklong cruise visiting the Christmas markets of Hungary, Austria, and Germany (those posts coming soon, I promise), and we’re hosting an ugly jumper party this Saturday for a handful of people we’ve met since we arrived. And yes, we’re in the process of decorating this big, beautiful, Georgian house we are temporarily calling home. The first step? Getting our Christmas tree up. Now, even though my job is that of a professional author, I have to warn you that I lack the adequate words to convey to you how much I love Christmas trees. For me, it’s the symbol of the entire season. We used to get a 7-8 foot one every year until we decided that it would be easier to have a faux one, which was really a beautiful tree but it turned out that I am allergic to whatever they use to make them and the welts I’d get after decorating just weren’t worth it. Last year we went back to having a live tree and it made me so damn happy.
With the crazy tall ceilings in this house I knew I wanted a mammoth tree for our parlour and so that’s what we set out to find this weekend. During a major storm. In the freezing rain. Through the mud. Needless to say, it was quite the experience tramping through the Christmas tree farm during a major storm while rain pelted down and the winds whipped us hither and yon. It took us about forty minutes but we eventually stumbled on one that I thought would look perfect in our house. And no, it wasn’t the kind they cut down for you. Alas, we found one sitting at the back of the lot that had already been cut. We probably could have saved ourselves the mud and water, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Getting it into the house and set up was pretty easy (well, easy for me – Alan did all the work). The lights though? That small reason we switched to a pre-lit faux one in the first place? Well, let’s just say that didn’t go so well. In fact, after spending two hours last night trying to put them up, the tree is sitting naked with a broken branch on the bottom. I’ve turned the tree around so it’s not noticeable (which thankfully was a better angle for the tree to begin with) and we’ll give it another shot tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m loving just sitting here with the scent of the live tree wafting over me. It may not be all shiny and sparkly yet, but it’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas.