One of our very favorite things to do is spend the holidays in a foreign place. I think it’s because we live in Texas, and so does my husband’s family; but my family is so far away, up in Michigan. Prices to travel up north during the holidays are always crazy – and so, in an effort to make neither set of parents jealous and somehow make both sets dissatisfied, we decided at some point to start holidaying abroad. This way, neither parent could accuse us of spending more time with one side of the family, and all parents would feel as though they’d been slighted somehow at Christmastime. A lose-lose, all around.
Nevertheless, we love traveling for Christmas.
One year, it was a chilly and frosted Napa Valley, staying in a room with a fireplace and tasting wines at different vineyards daily. With remarkable views of the valley, sparkling champagne, and a different delicious restaurant to visit every night, it was truly a decadent, albeit expensive, heaven.
Another Christmas, we traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark. There, in a northern wonderland, we found Christmas markets and hot, spicy, mulled gluhwein, roasted nuts, and reindeer. It was cheerful and chilly, and unbelievably beautiful. Everywhere we went smelled like Christmas, and the city even conjured up a shaking of sugar snow on Christmas morning. We even had the famous Tivoli Amusement Park mostly to ourselves, which was decorated in holiday glory with tinsel and sparkling lights. But, our favorite foreign place to spend the holiday is Paris. Besides being a uniquely romantic city to explore at Christmas, it’s also more festive than one would expect. There is the Christmas Market along the Champs-Elysées, another in Montmartre, and one near Notre Dame, along with a smattering of smaller markets about the city. Paris, as a whole, comes to life for the season. The City of Light somehow grows brighter. The biting cold nips at you through your coat, but somehow the cold isn’t bitter; instead, it only seems to push you into the next warm shop or bistro. Walking hand in hand along the Seine, seeing the streets of Paris decked out in swathes of greenery or glittering lights, watching other passers-by smiling, kissing, whispering in the night. Christmas in Paris is magic that can’t be matched by the brightest springtime or crispest autumn.
But then, there’s our Christmases in Michigan, which aren’t as much of a trip as flying abroad, but somehow the best of all. Snowy-white, frosted-cake Christmases trimmed with trips to Frankenmuth and Crossroads Village and holiday rides on the Huckleberry Railroad. Driving down to Greenfield Village to ice-skate and eat piping hot chestnuts near a bonfire whilst listening to carolers. Special, colder, Up-North Christmases with cotton ball snowbanks and sledding all day and frozen lake water.
We love to go abroad for Christmas, to explore a foreign place and see how they celebrate differently than we do, their traditions and culture – not only how we celebrate differently, but also, how we celebrate the same. Santa, Father Christmas, Père Noël, Julemanden; however one says his name, fat, skinny, jolly or grim, he brings presents. And in all those places, he is Christmas. It’s the same sparkling lights and the same exchange of gifts and outpouring of joy and peace of the season.
Home or abroad, with our parents or just us two, holding hands and walking the streets, the holiday season is always a beautiful experience. An opportunity to see the world through the lens of Christmas, as a place of curiosity, wonder and magic.