I’m e-mailing with a friend about the pros and cons of celebrating Christmas at home versus going somewhere for the holidays. For families today who are often scattered to the four winds for jobs or school, finding a time and place for a meaningful celebration often set up an emotional landmine. Should we all go to Grandma’s? What about the in-laws who live four states away and refuse to get on a plane? Who wants to host Christmas dinner and what should we serve? Turkey and the trimmings served on china and crystal, or Chinese take out consumed directly from the carton?
As a childless couple, Ron and I often spent Christmases traveling. Not to avoid our families whom we dearly love, but because our lives during the rest of the year were consumed by graduate school and work schedules, leaving those two weeks at Christmas the only time we could get away. We spent a number of Christmases in Hawaii where Santa arrived in an outrigger canoe and “Merry Christmas” translated into “Mele Kalikimaka.” Long walks on the beach, trips to check out the historical markers, and sumptuous dinners made those Christmases special. One year we spent Christmas Eve listening to Hawaiian singer Emma Veary give a Christmas concert with the Honolulu Boy’s Choir. Dressed in her trademark white, Miss Veary thrilled us with a magnificent voice that made the meaning of “O Holy Night” memorable to this day.
Another year we spent two and a half weeks at Christmas discovering New Zealand. Christmas Eve found us in the city of Christchurch, where we stayed at Noah’s hotel and were told that Prince Charles and Princess Diana had just stayed there the week before. That evening, we attended Christmas services at the cathedral and again we were blessed by the voices of a boys’ choir. This beautiful cathedral was lost to an earthquake a few years ago, but the memories of those young voices filling such an awe-inspiring space will stay with us for a lifetime.
The December I finished my PhD I was exhausted from the rigors of grad school and a full time job and we took a two week cruise which included traversing the Panama Canal. On Christmas Eve, one of the passengers aboard out ship took gravely ill, and we changed course at around 10 pm and headed for Grand Cayman to disembark him. Later that evening, our multi-national crew entertained us with Christmas songs from around the world, and the next day, Christmas Day, we arrived in Jamaica and took a rafting trip down the Martha Brae river, our seat an old school bus seat strapped to a flat bottomed boat. New Year’s Day was spent in San Andres, Colombia under the watchful gaze of a militia.
One year we stayed at the Camelback Inn in Arizona and went horseback riding on Christmas morning, stopping for a cowboy breakfast on the trail before returning to the hotel for a much needed dip in the hot tub to ease our saddle-weary muscles. I still remember we had cherries jubilee for dessert that night.
Sharing new places together, meeting new people, listening to carols in churches and cathedrals around the world have filled our lives with glorious Christmas memories. Whether you are traveling or staying home beside your own cozy fire ( which is what we are doing this year) I hope this Christmas will prove memorable for you and yours, one that you will recall for years to come. Be blessed.