As an expat, you find yourself a little adrift sometimes at the holidays – somewhat akin to the little Matchgirl standing in the cold. No, I take that back, they are #firstworldproblems – we aren’t freezing in the snow, and if we are it’s because celebrations were a little too feisty.
You do however end up starting your own hilarious expat Christmas traditions. I have ached to be a) prepared and b) in the country for the fabulously British tradition of ‘Stir-up Sunday’, the date where households gather their baking aprons and failed several years in the row – but I did finally manage to watch the Trafalgar Square switch on this year.
**Disclaimer: Not our 2015 tree**
This year is the second in a row that we aren’t decorating for Christmas. *Cue the Awwws*. Normally I allow myself to go a little crazy – we’re talking fairy light overload, a beautifully smelling real Christmas tree carried on the train to the bemusement of our fellow travellers, bedecking every possible surface with baubles, wassailing from the very first moment possible (some unkind people might infer it’s wailing – to-mar-to, toh-may-to), cupboards groaning with spiced mince pies and stockings all hung by the chimney with care.
Instead, with a trip for a family Christmas planned, a mini-neon green Christmas Tree accidentally fell into my bag on the way home the other day (I blame an afternoon of mulled cider by a roaring fire – I swear it was the warmth that did it) so once home I carefully upended our Christmas Storage Facility (a non-Pinterest worthy hodge-podge of repurposed boxes that lurk in our cupboard under the stairs, itching to get out each November December) to find my absolute favourite tree decorations.
** I did warn you about the effects of mulled cider – luckily I didn’t go for the neon pink one…**
They’re an unusual mix collected over the last few years – I prefer to forgo a colour scheme for a collection of memories, leaving the overall scheme of baubles to my husband’s whimsy. When I began travelling, I collected postcards voraciously (sometimes they still turn up – usually when I’m looking for socks – distracting me from the job at hand until my toes go blue) but after a while we realised that they don’t really ‘do’ anything but hang out on my corkboard. We then hit upon the genius idea of collecting Christmas decorations as wanderlust souvenirs that we could enjoy for a month or so each year hanging from the tinsel-laden boughs.
Amongst the branches hang miniature dutch clogs, an Irish fairy, teeny Kiwis, Football baubles and a German angel who crown our decorations with a fair few others. As a childless couple it makes for a personalised tree, a month in the year running through travel memories and they are super small to carry through airport security. (A small Oscar figurine might just have been added to the collection this year after our adventure in Los Angeles, but I can’t admit anything.) Ahhh, the joys of an expat Christmas tradition.
I’ve tried, but can’t pick a favourite – the enthusiasm for my husband’s football team the Grimsby Mariners; a sweet memento of our blissful 10 days in Ireland, teeny-tiny porcelain clogs reminiscent of our Amsterdam long weekend.
Or perhaps it’s the glittery London tube train, an ethereal spinning crystal star hanging sweetly, miniature kiwi birds in Santa hats or perhaps the German Christmas Market angel that crowns our indoor forest.
Happily, it’s for a good reason – I just hope that my family understand the full extent of the whirlwind of expat Christmas that they are subjecting their own homes to…
Have you a favourite ornament/memory?