I’ve always believed in celebrating my holidays no matter where I am. My family has long understood that not everyone may be present for a holiday and that’s been okay (probably the military roots… or maybe the far-flung family tree). The show goes on… and Christmas is wherever you are.
I’ve opened presents in mid-January because I’d traveled through Christmas and New Years. And I’ve done all sorts of things on Christmas Eve and Day, from watching the sun set at Angkor Wat to teaching a few Utah football players to shoot craps on Freemont Street the afternoon before their bowl game (they may not have won at the tables, but they won the game). I’ve seen massive displays in non-Christian nations and seen other cultures observe the day in a variety of ways.
One of my very favorites was the Christmas holiday I spent traveling around New Zealand and Australia in 2009. I needed to heal my spirit after a bad year so I took off for a long trip around the world (literally – DFW-LAX-PPT-AKL-SYD-MEL-HKG-LHR-DFW plus some supplemental domestic flights and driving on the wrong side of the road!) It was the longest solo trip I’d ever taken (to this day, it still is) and one my spirit needed to repair from a bad year.
Part of my trip took me to Christchurch. My schedule had me arriving on Christmas Eve and departing on Boxing Day. I enjoyed the Service of Lessons and Carols at Christchurch Cathedral (which would, ironically, one of the last at the now earthquake-damaged structure). It was one of the most beautiful services ever. After, I walked back to my hotel but found myself intrigued by the swelling crowd walking with me. The crowd was gathering at a hillside park at the base of my hotel. I asked a passerby who explained that they would have a public carol sing-a-long for an hour at sunset. I ran upstairs to change clothes (as most gathered were on picnic blankets to enjoy the summer evening) and then sat in the park on the grass with thousands singing carols with strangers.
I’ve never felt more warmth at Christmas, even though I was far from family, because I was in the glow of the season. And I truly felt the spirit of “Christmas is wherever you are”.
I’ve also had many quiet Christmas holidays at home, like the one I’m enjoying today in the midst of a 12 day staycation – a nice break after a three week vacation over Thanksgiving. My present to myself? Two new Nest thermostats. Among my family presents were the remainder of the 36 Hours travel series to complete the collection I started this summer. And the favorite thing I took home wasn’t even under the tree – my mom gave me a beautiful gold pendant watch on a chain that belonged to my grandmother.
I also enjoyed watching my 99 year old grandfather open his presents – he mostly likes consumable gifts these days (dark chocolate covered cherries, kippered herring, popcorn, peanuts) but he’s still fun to buy for! I enjoyed hearing him recount a Christmas story I’ve heard many times, about how he lost his wingman flying in a Christmas snowstorm in the early 1940s.
I hope that however you spent your Christmas Day that the spirit of the season was with you and your loved ones.