Monday, December 11, 2006

We need a little Christmas

Munich Rathaus
Every Christmas is different. While my family had its traditions, they always varied slightly depending on where we lived, who was home, whether I was in the country or not, my grandparents' ages, my parents' marital status, and whether or not my uncle demanded that everyone go to church. After college, I alternated holidays between my family and my husband's, and since my parents have moved around a few times since then and my husband's family has almost doubled in size thanks to the addition of numerous offspring, we never seem to do it the same way twice.

All this should have prepared me for this holiday season, which will be the most unique of my life so far. Jeff and I will celebrate far away from anyone but each other. Since our baby is due to enter the world just a couple of weeks into the new year, there will be no travel for us, not even a few hours to a bustling European capital where we can order room service cheeseburgers. So we'll hang out at home and forge some new traditions. The first of which will probably involve a discussion about whether we are officially a Christmas Eve family (like mine) or a Christmas Day family (like his).

Though I like to believe I'm flexible, I think I may have reached my threshold for change. We're certainly not lacking in the Christmas spirit around here. We spent the weekend in Munich, taking in their Christmas market and eating nachos at the Hard Rock Cafe. We were surrounded by hand-carved ornaments, choirs singing carols, numerous Kris Kringles, and gingerbread houses in every hotel and restaurant lobby. I live in a city where the Christmas season is practically its reason for existence these days. But it's the personal celebrations that I already miss - putting on a sparkly outfit and drinking fancy cocktails with friends; seeing my coworkers' spouses for that once-a-year gathering; handfuls of shopping bags to show for the workout I've given my credit card. But this year, between the distance from family and old friends, my lack of a sparkly maternity outfit or anywhere to wear it, my self-control against fancy cocktails, the absence of co-workers, and my credit card's devotion to amazon.com, Christmas is so different that it almost doesn't feel like the same holiday I've celebrated for the past 34 years.

While wandering around outside Munich's historic Rathaus (town hall) on Friday night, we were surrounded by American voices, many of whom extolled the "Christmasiness" of Germany. In the next breath, they discussed their plans to board a plane back home and finish their shopping before the stores closed on the 24th. Jeff and I will cook our Christmas meal without the jet lag, without the crowded checkout line at Target, and without the feeling of being dragged from one supposedly festive event to another. We feel so lucky to have the chance to create our own family and our own traditions. But if we were ever lulled into the idea that the fabled holiday spirit was about the "stuff" - the music, the decorations, the lights, the parties, the shopping - we now know that those animatronic holiday TV shows were right. What we've been celebrating for the past three decades was more about our good fortune in being surrounded by people who made us laugh and included us in their celebrations, and made time to enjoy a once-a-year tradition with us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post. I was in Munich around then, too, so you might of heard my wife and I before we flew back to the states. Keep up the great blog. I love reading it.

- Erik