Day 20 | Advent Calendar
Christmas Spirit Rediscovered by D.E. Haggerty
Like nearly everyone, I loved Christmas as a child. The presents! All the fun playing with my cousins. And the food! Oh yes, the food. But somewhere, somehow, Christmas lost its glamour. One year, I even wrote a long and horrible poem about the lack of joy at Christmas and then posted the poem on the Christmas menus. Total bah humbug moment that. But then I spent the actual Christmas days with my American family last year for the first time in more than a decade. Besides giving me a hangover of mammoth proportions, I think I just might have rediscovered my Christmas spirit.
When my husband and I first moved to The Netherlands nearly two decades ago, we spent Christmas with his Dutch family and Thanksgiving with my American family. We just couldn’t afford to fly over the pond during the holidays, but the Dutch don’t consider Thanksgiving a holiday which meant we could, although barely, afford to visit for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, we could only manage that every other year. And, let’s face it, Thanksgiving is definitely not Christmas. Certainly not with my family. Two of my sisters married hunters and Thanksgiving is smack dab in the middle of hunting season. We were lucky if we saw any of the in-laws at all!
Soon enough, even visits at Thanksgiving started to dwindle. Both my husband and I had busy careers and my husband’s pilot job doesn’t stop for the holidays. And, rightfully so, many of his jobs allowed those with small children priority for days off at Christmas time. Before I knew it, I was used to traveling to the U.S. for the holidays on my own. I still stuck to New Year’s to visit, though. I didn’t want the hubby alone in a strange land for the holidays and I had those sky rocket prices to consider.
Things changed last year. The hubby was not only working for Christmas, but he wouldn’t even be anywhere near our ‘home’ on the actual days of Christmas either. In the past, I was content to visit the in-laws in this situation. Now, however, I was a three-and-a-half-hour flight away from the hubby’s family. I was also in the lucky position of being able to travel for a fraction of the cost of normal plane tickets. Looks like I was heading to the U.S. for the actual Christmas day for the first time in, well, I’m not exactly sure.
The trip itself was the typical holiday travel nightmare that did nothing to lift my Christmas spirits. It started with a mad dash through the shopping malls of Istanbul to buy presents for teenagers who already had everything their little hearts desired and continued with a six-hour delay on the tarmac in Frankfurt when the tower lost power. To add insult to injury, I arrived in O’Hare smack dab in the middle of a snowstorm. Naturally. I somehow managed to drive myself through that snowstorm, although it required LOTS of caffeine and one stop at a McDonald’s for Wi-Fi access. Apparently, it’s normal for people in Wisconsin to go to McDonald’s in their pajamas during a snowstorm. I was decidedly overdressed for the occasion.
I finally arrived in Northern Wisconsin – the word ‘cold’ takes on a whole new meaning up there – where most of my immediate family had gathered to celebrate the holidays. We spent Christmas Eve doing a present exchange with the immediate family: my parents, two sisters, and their families. The first Christmas ‘miracle’ was the pile of presents in front of my chair. Where did they come from? No one was supposed to know I was coming for Christmas!
Christmas Day was spent like most families – eating embarrassing amounts of foods and drinking way too much wine. The day was also spent telling somewhat exaggerated stories and just generally making fun of each other. Oh, and I may have forced my nieces and nephews who could now drive to the store on various occasions to pick up American food cravings I couldn’t resist after my first glass of wine.
I woke up on Boxing Day with a smile on my face, despite the hangover trying to cause my head to erupt. That was the best Christmas I’d had in like forever! As a total nerd, I naturally had to analyze why this Christmas with my family was better and that’s when I realized that ‘Christmas in July’ or on New Year’s Day just isn’t the same. And it’s not just the missing snow either!
With my husband’s crazy work schedule and the distance to my family, we don’t always have the choice to enjoy Christmas festivities on Christmas day itself, but from now on I will try to ensure that I plan some family activities no matter where I am in the world. Happy holidays!
I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on from my mom’s Harlequin romances to Nancy Drew to Little Women. When I wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although I did manage, every once in a while, to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t my thing either. I decided to follow the husband to Istanbul for a few years where I managed to churn out book after book. But ten years was too many to stay away from ‘home’. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.