Christmas is coming. A friend was in Paris, recently, and mentioned shopping at the Galeries Lafayette. That brought back a flood of memories. As a child, my parents used to take me and my siblings to see the Christmas windows of the famous department store. We lived about half an hour away, and walked there, and back, something we did as a matter of course. To this day, I remember the excitement, the little clouds that came out of our mouths, the lights and colors all around, the smell of hot chestnuts being roasted over a fire burning in big oil drums. Approaching les Galeries Lafayette, we just couldn’t wait to push past all the people until we stopped right in front of the first window, our cold noses touching the even colder glass, but who cared ? Inside was a magical world: animated scenes with animals and dolls moving, dancing, singing, riding electric trains…
My children have never seen that. The older one did see the Gigantic Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center when she was 5 months old, but of course, she doesn’t remember it.
I was in that nostalgic frame of mind, when I read an interesting article: What do you do when the kids think Colonel Sanders is Santa ? The writer is from New Zealand, married to a Japanese, and they live in Japan. Her family has struggled to create a tradition they can call their own.
When we lived in Nigeria, spending Christmas in France, with family, was easy. Then, we moved to India, and after the first Christmas trip, I remember pushing the door of our house in Hyderabad, dropping my suitcase on the floor, and saying : No more !
It’s all right to go continent-hopping with two small kids in tow when you have at least one free month ahead of you. Otherwise, it’s just exhausting. Besides, we wanted to visit India. So, for a while, we just made it a point to be home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and we took off on the 26th. But it made for really short vacations, as school started soon after the 1st of January, and my husband was due back at work. So, we changed again. Nowadays, Christmas means frantic, last-minute, separate shopping in Bangkok, taking turns keeping the kids busy, and for Christmas Eve, we might be found sending paper lanterns up in the sky, on a beach in Thailand, or trying an organic restaurant in Bali. This year, we’ll be in Siem Rep, and apart from the frantic shopping part in Bangkok, I have no idea what to expect.
But in the meantime, we will take our tree out (most likely this week-end), and deck it out with our international mix of decorations. Buddha and Ganesha will find their usual place in the nativity scene. And we’ll continue to work around our circumstances. Flexibility is the name of the game.