Holiday Intermezzo

It’s been quite a holiday season this year, in oh so many ways.

Nothing about it has been ‘normal’ or ‘same old, same old’ or even vaguely familiar.

Given a whole range of circumstances, some of which will go unmentioned out of respect for others’ privacy and most well beyond our control, my family has found itself in the odd situation of celebrating the holidays stateside yet for a few days by ourselves.

Gingerbread star Christmas ornaments on Adventures in Expat LandIn recent weeks we’ve been scattered to the winds, and only as Christmas approached has our nuclear family unit finally been reunited.

We’re Christmas people.

Not merely from a religious perspective, but also from a deeply entrenched cultural one as well.

My family not only tolerates my love of seasonal celebration, they appreciate and encourage it.

So year after year you’ll find us decking the halls in the same manner, following the same routines and rituals, eating and imbibing the same favorites.

That’s not to say we aren’t capable of change, because we are.

For instance, after a dozen years throwing renowned Christmas parties – I’d like to think they were well-attended as much for the eclectic guest list, scintillating conversation and fabulous food as for the mucho glasses of bubbly and Husband’s decadent port tasting held in a back room – we chose not to recreate those soirées when we moved away, intent on developing new traditions.

Then there was the almost seamless transition from the annual selection of a healthy, live tree to finally breaking down and admitting that an attractive artificial behemoth beauty that fit well in the new living room had its redeeming qualities.

I’ve gone from baking a half dozen kinds of Christmas cookies to barely managing to eke out basic sugar cookies. Covered with luscious frosting and candy decorations, mind you. But still, the family has learned to do without just fine.

When we moved to a home without an outdoor electrical outlet allowing for our traditional interwoven greenery and white lights framing the doorway and porch railings, we rolled with the punches, sucked it up and made due with additional pine boughs, red velvet bows and an oversized wreath.

(No comments on overcompensating with wreath size, please.)

Heck, we even learned to take it all down several notches when we moved to Nederland several years ago. Well, on the exterior, at least.

So don’t think we can’t tolerate change. We thrive on change – nay, we excel at change.

But this year was something altogether different.

Nothing quite says ‘Happy Holidays’ like trying to celebrate Christmas while living out of suitcases in temporary accommodations, our extensive collection of beloved ornaments, decorations and seasonal trappings safely tucked away back in The Netherlands.

What’s a vagabond family to do?

Declare it a stripped down holiday season and make do with less, fewer, other or simply go without. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with limited time, space, and budget but unlimited creativity, innovation and panache.

The results? A far simpler, cleaner, greener Christmas than usual, but one that didn’t skimp on spirit or cheer.

We’ve focused on the importance of being together, being a family.

We’ve spent more time taking long hikes in sun-dappled forests, seeing a movie, enjoying leisurely lunches, and – thanks to a far more robust glut of post-season bowl games in recent years – instructing Daughter in the finer points of American football.

We even spent what the Dutch and others call the ‘Second Christmas’ (Tweede Kerstmis) – Boxing Day to Brits, Aussies and Canadians – out bowling.

Yes, bowling. As in silly looking shoes, hurling a heavy ball down a waxed wooden lane and trying to knock over wooden pins. Rest assured our amateur status was never in jeopardy, especially when we required the services of the kindly lane manager to reset the electronic score-keeping system for us.

Not once, but twice.

We may have attracted more than a few quizzical looks with our unorthodox bowling form, and our utter inability to get the balls to go where intended, but hey – we were together, we laughed and we had a wonderful time.

So goes the holiday intermezzo, these lazy days after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve celebrations, then once again we scatter to the far corners of the world. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.




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