Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Destination Life: Home for Christmas

Today marks my last Destination Life. I hope you have enjoyed the columns. For the last one, I want to talk about that special place – being home for Christmas. And sometimes you can only be in your dreams.

My Christmas wanderings started when I was 19 and we went to Spartanburg SC for Christmas rather than being in San Francisco. I was with family but the traditions were different, and I was also busy being a debutante. My Season was a lot of fun and ultimately turned out to be life changing. (And I did acquire a boyfriend who turned out not to be Safe in a Carriage but that is another story...filed under Boyfriend Mistakes) The next year, I spent in Innsbruck on my own at a youth hostel with a collection of other travellers from the US, Canada and Australia. There is a certain bond that develops between travellers at Christmas. We knew we were all away and the customs were different. The living crèche and the fact that everything was closed for about sticks in my memory. We all gathered around the upstairs kitchen and sang Christmas carols.

The next year, I spent with my future husband and his parents and I can remember thinking that it really wasn’t the same! That year Christmas was important but I wasn’t home. The sideboard loaded with all sorts of different alcohol that no one drank was something that puzzled. I did enjoy tucking into all the different types of sweets. And then there was the Queen's speech. The one bright spot was that my husband believes as I do that you get up early on Christmas morning! We have spent every Christmas since then together and gradually being in the UK for Christmas has come to seem like being home. A Dutch friend of mine and I used to have conversations though about the British Christmas and in particular their lack of keepsake ornaments...
When the children were younger, we used to go home to the US for Christmas and I could indulge in my love of keepsake ornaments. It also meant that I could introduce my children to the absolute joy that is the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker and they were able to meet the US version of Santa Claus, rather than the tradition Father Christmas in a bishop's robes. When my mother and sister finally moved to Washington DC, we spent a couple of Christmases there as well and Washington DC rapidly became home for the holidays. One tradition my sister has kept from that time is celebrating New Years on English time rather than American. It means that the children can have fun, but still get into bed at a reasonable time. But I always felt home was where the heart was.

This year, we have a spilt family. My eldest will be in Washington with my mother as he is on his Junior Year Abroad (and loving it) while we remain in Northumberland. So Christmas will be different.

And where you are, I hope that you can be home for Christmas if only in your dreams. May all your destinations in the comming year be joyous.

PHS editor Michelle Styles will return PHS with a new column  -- refilling the well and combating wrtier's block in the new year. You can learn more about her books on http://www.michellestyles.co.uk/


  1. It is odd being in someone else's home for Christmas. We have the tradition that the children can open their stockings on Christmas Eve and then their main presents first thing in the morning after the grown-ups are armed with their morning coffee. But one year, we went to stay with my brother-in-law and his family. They went to church for midnight mass(which we never do) and stockings and Xmas presents weren't opened until Christmas Day after the main dinner! My kids (5 and 6 at the time), were crawling the walls with anticipation! I thought it was a good lesson in how other people do different things, but its alesson my kids don't care to repeat when we spend Christmas at home.

  2. Waiting til after Christmas Dinner for the pressies!! Good grief, that's more deferred gratification than I'll ever need too, Nicolette, forget about the kids!

    Loved your post Michelle, we have so many Christmas traditions it's getting a bit ridiculous... ONe of my favourite is taking the boys to John Lewis on Oxford Street every year and buying a new Christmas ornament each to put on the tree... We have so many now the trees a bit overloaded frankly... Another which I have recently introduced is trooping down to my sister's house in Cambridge on Christmas Day so she can do all the cooking... This year she's got 25 people coming, so clearly I'm not the only one.

    My theory, wherever my large extended family is is where Christmas is at for me and we do all try to get together, if not on Christmas then New Year.

    Happy Xmas all!

  3. Happy holidays Michelle. Looking forward to seeing you in the new year.