Currently I am whiling away a few hours until it is time for us to get on a train and start the lengthy journey back home. There was a time – before my wife moved to England – when I would desperately try to stretch out the last few hours before the homeward journey. I am sure all those partners who have endured long periods of separation can understand that one (and even plenty of people who have been fortunate enough not to be in that situation). Now however I am feeling well sated with Christmas cheer and it feels like a perfect opportunity to reflect on the last few days.
I have been looking forward to this holiday for some time, but also have been a little nervous. After all, Christmas in another country means Christmas with different traditions. Add in the fact that I have great difficulty comprehending spoken Danish and a severely limited ability to speak Danish and I was expecting more than a few awkward moments. There were none, which I partially attribute to the fact that my Danish is getting slowly better, but mostly to the fact that my in-laws are truly wonderful people who have been very welcoming to this unexpected Englishman who has joined their lives. Also, thankfully, lots of Danes speak English (though this is not so true of the generation of my parents-in-law and older).
So what are the main differences? Well firstly that the “big event” actually takes place on Christmas Eve and not on Christmas Day itself. I understand lots of places on the Continent do this, but for me it was a first. Rather than turkey, duck is the traditional bird of the day – and since I am not so fond of turkey and am very fond of duck this was fine. No Christmas pudding either, which is slightly strange, but in its stead there was risalamande (and my svigemor’s risalamande is the bestest risalamande in the world). In atmosphere, well, it does feel a little different, but I am not quite sure how to qualify this. Perhaps a little more communal, perhaps a little more exuberant – things that might very well be more down to the differences between families than the differences between cultures.
This is also, of course, our first Christmas as our new family, with Melian being the absolute star of the show. Anyone who says that a six-month old baby cannot understand the joy of the Christmas – well, they are wrong. She has been so happy, and has become so involved. Watching her has been a pure delight. It is not just the opening of presents, but the fun of a Christmas Disney show on the telly, of seeing other people being happy (nothing brings a smile more readily to her face than other people smiling), and joy of doing special things – most notably being allowed to get up again late one night to spend more time with us. She knew this was a special treat – you could see it in her face – and it was special for us too.
Melian has also been a generally good traveller. While I am sure some six-month year olds must have great trouble with planes and trains, Melian’s curious nature has meant she spent the greater part of the trip in a sense of wonderment. Take an airport (in this case Heathrow Terminal 5). I think once you get to a certain age most airports start to feel much the same – some are larger or more glamorous, but at the end of the day they are all just airports. To Melian however it was a place with so many exciting new sounds and smells and things to see – I hope she is able to delay the onset of familiar contempt for as long as possible because truly it was a wonder to see her wonder in her eyes.
For me, therefore, Christmas has been a wonderful time. I do not have a to return to work until just after the New Year, and will be doing a couple of family events back in home in England when we get back. However, as Gank points out in this great post, Christmas is not something everyone is properly in a position to celebrate, for one cause or another. The thing is, sometimes the smallest of efforts can have the greatest of impacts. Just a Christmas card through the door of a lonely neighbour, or a kind word to the shop assistant or barstaff manning the holiday shifts, can make a big difference.
All the best
stnylan / Lewis