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Christmas. The word inspires nostalgic images of roaring fires, cosy living rooms and a comforting snow-scape visible through the window. Christmas trees, cheesy radio and an inundation of cards from long-lost relatives. One of my favourite things to do is visit a market and browse for unique and crafty gifts. It’s a time to be spent with family and usually, in my case, playing endless embarrassing dinner-party games. My family is remarkably set in its ways; every year follows the same structure in the way it has since we were children. So you may be able to imagine my surprise when my dad cheerfully suggested that we relocate to Spain for the holidays this year. In fact, I might go so far as to claim that the idea filled me with dread. I love travelling and I love Spain, but the initial prospect of spending my Christmas anywhere other than home was an unnerving one. My mother shared my sentiment: we always spend the day with our Grandparents; it would be difficult to persuade them to leave the rest of their family at this time of year. What’s more, we were adamant that we would have a proper Christmas dinner wherever we were, and cooking that in a cramped self-catering apartment? A difficult feat even if we could source the ingredients. The idea was quickly discarded and we moved on with the customary Christmas plans.
As the date approached, however, I continued to ponder the idea and ask why one would pile on the expense of Christmas with the added cost of a holiday. Why fix something that isn’t broken? If there’s any time not to jet off for a beachside holiday, surely it’s Christmas. But alongside the usual presents and ice-skating photos, my social media was beginning to be interspersed with updates from people on a year abroad, travelling around Australia and on other exciting ventures. Santa hats on the beach were becoming a common trend and as I reached for a second pair of socks, I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. Sunning on a beach and spending time with friends is the ultimate relaxation, and by then it was beginning to sound like an incredible way to see in the New Year. Christmas is fundamentally a time to inspire, to love and to help others: things that can be achieved and even made more special by doing them all over the world. The opportunity to experience Christmas in a different culture is a unique one as each country, family and even individual has its own customs. In the Czech Republic, for example, one can sample the main Christmas dish made from Carp, whereas in Germany the preferred and traditional sweet is ‘lebkuchen’, a spiced cookie. The place that most appealed to me upon looking into the matter further, I must admit, was Australia. In AUS Christmas comprises of a barbeque, and people often gather on the beach for candlelit carol services. I think I could be persuaded to forego the Brussel sprouts one year for that!
So as the season progressed, I was beginning to come around to the idea of spending Christmas abroad. It was far too late by this point to change my parents’ mind and jet off to Spain, but I knew that in the future my reaction to that initial question would be very different. I might miss my family if I wasn’t with them at this time of year, but I think coming home with all new memories to share with them would make me appreciate them and their traditions a lot more the next time. By the time Christmas was over, I couldn’t help but feel I had missed out on an opportunity. I’m already checking out my destinations for next year!