|Yuletide in the North (JB)|
|Written by Iceland Review|
|Monday, 19 December 2011 12:38|
Christmas to me is the most beautiful season of the year. It is the season when the zeitgeist of the moment is purified of negativity and filtered with the joyous smiles of hearts bathing in the sparkling lights decorating the cities of the world.
It doesn’t seem to matter where we choose to celebrate Christmas or how we celebrate Christmas. What matters is that we celebrate our heart’s desires in a time and a place when the world seems to quiet down for just a day or two.
I am no stranger to celebrating Christmas away from my orthodox Icelandic traditions, and, in fact, treasure those moments just as much.
I do love spending the holidays with my family but at the same time, I enjoy the occasional holiday season far away from my usual place of comfort on Christmas Eve.
Since 1998, I have spent the holiday season in a few well-chosen locations around the globe and all of them have in some way left me with fond memories.
The first time I went solo over Christmas was the year I lived in Brazil as an exchange student. I lived with a wonderful family and my Portuguese was finally good enough to communicate with ease.
It was my first Christmas in the southern hemisphere and when I think of Christmas that year I have nothing but good memories.
My only regret is spending two hours on the phone in an unlit living room crying from a symptom I am thankfully able to discard more easily these days: homesickness.
If I could do Christmas again in the very small country-town-like city Rio Verde in the state of Goiás, I would have spent more time with my beloved host-family who took me into their home and made me fall in love with not only the local culture but them as a family.
My next Christmas away was in 2001. Christmas Eve was a night my best friend Eva and I had looked forward to for days and we had planned to cook a proper meal for our fellow travelers in the overland truck taking us across the many plains of eastern and southern parts of Africa.
But it was not meant to be. Because of intervention by our horrid driver—and I say horrid because he was genuinely an unpleasant person to be around, although he had his rare good moment too—what was supposed to be a good meal was naught but toast and ketchup with water filtered by a dirty sock in a water pipe.
Yet somehow, Eva and I found a way to celebrate the season together by the water hole in the Etosha national park with a beer each under a starlit sky. We watched a family of elephants shower in the dark tending to their young ones first.
It was a moment so serene and pure no words could do it justice.
That night I promised myself I would never fall prey to the mad rush of Christmas preparation, and I haven’t since then.
The next Christmas I spent away was in London in 2005. I had anticipated attending a party but when I told my parents, they couldn’t bare the thought and bought two tickets to spend Christmas with me in North Finchley.
It was a quiet sort of Christmas to us. The rush of Christmas Eve was replaced by a meal in a local restaurant owned by an Italian family. The food was lovely and although unorthodox to my parents, I think they had a good time.
The next day we walked around the neighborhood and took the tube to Bayswater where we had dinner that night. It was a lovely holiday season, shattered only by the news of my niece falling ill and being rushed to a hospital.
The last Christmas I spent abroad was in the city of Durban, South Africa in 2008. It was the first Christmas my husband got to spend with his family in five or six years.
We had a Christmas Day meal at my sister-in-law’s lavish home during which my father-in-law’s turkey was sliced to perfection and followed by homemade cupcakes produced by my sister-in-law. They are in fact to blame for my desperate search for the perfect cupcake since.
On Christmas Day it was pouring rain and the temperature was approximately 15°C (59°F) instead of the usual tropical climate of the region, that is, 25°C (77°F).
In fact, it continued to rain throughout time we spent in my husband’s native region of KwaZulu-Natal. However, on our departure day we left Durban in the high twenties and arrived in a sunny Johannesburg before landing in a snowy Frankfurt.
Last year, I was in South Africa for most of December and it was the same as the year before, a lot of rain and little less sun, except in Johannesburg, but I didn’t let the weather ruin my holiday spirit.
This year I will be spending Christmas in Iceland and I can’t wait.
Icelanders are very sour looking people in general. Anyone who’s been here in January is sure to confirm that is not a fallacy.
But December seems to loosen the iron amour strapped around our hearts. It is the breath of Yuletide jolliness that releases the grip.
It’s not just the prospect of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It’s the entire month of December.
Hot chocolate is made from scratch, cookies bake in the oven during the weekend break and news stories of charitable donations make the evening news.
The other day, an anonymous person paid months of rent for an impoverished single mother.
Whatever it is, we put aside our differences and prepare for a season full of love and kindness.
In all my travels and habitations abroad, I have never seen such a tidal wave of sincere love for the season. Christians and non-believers embrace the season of light, a season dominated by night.
This year, the prospect of Christmas, white as the bride’s veil, is looming around the corner, and I can’t wait to start the long holiday season that truly commences on the 23rd of December, and comes to end no sooner than in the New Year.
I hope you do too.
|Last Updated on Monday, 19 December 2011 20:38|