Although I've lived in Australia for almost 13 years I still get very nostalgic at Christmas time. I've been thinking about why I feel this way and how I can ensure our boys get the most out of the holiday season. Sharing traditions, telling stories and learning how to give are a top priority for me while busying myself with preparations. This busy-ness is often done to avoid the secret sombre moments when I reflect on the distance between this country and my family back in Dublin and London.
So, to help with my moments of melancholy I thought I'd call on some friends who also live away from their place of birth, to share their memories of Christmas with us all.
We'll begin with the lovely Jillian from one of my favourite blogs of 2012. Jillian in Italy. This is one multicultural family and its always refreshing to read her posts. I had the pleasure of taking part in her "Kids Life" series back in August. It's here if you'd like a read. But right now, it's grab-a-cup-of-tea time. These answers are just too gorgeous.
1. Were you a very traditional family growing up? Tell us what it was like where you grew up?
I guess you could say we were quite a traditional family growing up. We lived close to my grandmother who I saw on a weekly basis and celebrated all the big holidays together. I grew up in a small city called Halifax in Eastern Canada. It was a great place to grow up in and I love returning as often as I can with my own family. For me the ultimate Christmas is in my childhood home with the snow falling outside the window and all of us cuddled up in front of the fire with a mug of hot apple cider. Luckily we've taken our children there a few times for Christmas so they've experienced it as well.
2. What traditions of your childhood do you share with your kids now?
We actually celebrate Christmas in an entirely different way than I did as a child (except when we are in Canada of course). Since my kids are schooled in Dutch the most important part of the holiday season isSinterklaas on the 6th of December. That's when they are brought all their toys and sweets. Then for Christmas it's usually a big family dinner on Christmas Eve with a few small presents. I sometimes miss the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and having a big traditional breakfast in front of the fire. But being an international family (living in Italy and married to a Belgian) means adapting and adjusting to local traditions and that of your partner. In any case it's a lovely time of year.
3. With so much emphasis on buying and less on the traditional values of Christmas, how do you make this time of year special for your family?
Luckily here in Italy there isn't this overwhelming push to buy buy buy at Christmas time. People celebrate Christmas in a simple way that revolves around family and food. I even know some families who don't exchange gifts at Christmas. One of the most important ways we make the holiday season special is by spending as much time together as a family and with our friends. We have parties and brunches and get together for hikes in the woods etc. As a family we also have a tradition of picking a name out of a hat and making something for that person (secretly). The kids really look forward to this "elfing" we do every year and put their heart and soul into making something special.
4. I was always terrified of 'meeting Santa' at local shopping centres growing up. Did you ever have a Christmas phobia?
I feel bad saying it but my only Christmas phobia was the "green bean jelly mold" my grandmother made every year for Christmas dinner. I love her dearly but that side dish scared me.
5. If you could bring your kids anywhere in the world for Christmas, where would you go?
That's a hard question because I have my parents and grandparents in Eastern Canada, my brother in Australia, my sister in Western Canada and my in-laws in Belgium. I want to go to all of these places and see everyone!
6. Where were you when you found out the truth about Santa?!
My older brother and I were in my parent's walk-in closet and he pointed up to the top shelf where all the Christmas toys were hidden. I was crushed.