Thursday, 19 November 2015

In The Bleak December, or, 6 Ways To Spend Christmas In A Foreign Country

As December approaches, I'm faced with a rather difficult and thought-provoking dilemma - what am I going to do about Christmas?

For me, Christmas is mostly about family.  In Australia, Christmas also represents the end of the school and working year, the end of the calendar year, the start of summer and the holidays, and the beginning of a brand new lap around the sun.  It's basically a big party to round out the year, filled with food and laughter and gift-giving and general merriment, all dedicated to cherishing the people nearest and dearest to you.  That's what Christmas means to me; only this year, living 16,000 kilometres away from home means that I won't have any of it.
Paris Christmas Night Market, 2012
This is not the first time I've had to find a way to celebrate Christmas on my own.  When I was on exchange in France a few years ago I likewise found myself at a loose end during the Noel holidays, as all my European and American friends flew home to be with their families.  The Australian expat group I'd discovered all scattered to their respective families for the big day.  I couldn't even find a bunch of old French nuns taking in poor lonely students for a bit of a Christmas lunch.  I ultimately spent most of the day cosily in bed with my second (or perhaps third) dose of merry old flu since arriving in Europe, and by the time a group of Brazilian friends I'd invited for 5pm finally showed up around 10pm, I was wrecked, ready for bed and a terrible hostess.

So, this time around I've decided to plan ahead instead of winding up in a cold and lonely apartment on December 25th without even a Christmas tree for company.  Thus, below are a number of ways to pass Christmas Day when you're all dressed up in a foreign country and nowhere to go:

1. Have a quiet affair at home
The most simple option is, after all, to stay home and have Christmas in my apartment here in Baza, and with a bit of pre-planning it needn't be the rather pathetic affair it was last time!  With a Christmas tree, some nice decorations, my favourite Aussie Christmas carols and a good meal for Christmas lunch, there's no reason it can't be merry, and I can Skype my family back home to open presents and share the day with them courtesy of modern technology.  Staying in Baza means I can also experience the local build-up to Christmas, whatever that may look like in small-town rural Spain, and enjoy the sense of community that I love around here.

2. Adopt myself out to a local Spanish family
If any Spaniards in Baza are reading this, one Australian girl with puppy-dog eyes seeking half-day adoption for Christmas!  Will bring presents, cook food and be extremely cheerful.  Can be returned to owner/own apartment when sufficiently glutted on eggnog and Christmas pud.

Spending the day with a Spanish family would also mean that I could see all the town Christmas preparations and even Skype my family on the day as well.  Only problem is, Baza doesn't seem to have a human adoption agency somehow!

3. Fly solo - literally
The extended Christmas holidays would be the perfect opportunity to take a long trip somewhere that I haven't been, like Portugal, Africa or Ireland, or even re-visit somewhere I have, like France or England.  Despite my four-day week, trips beyond Spain or even Andalucia aren't an easy proposition, so Christmas gives me just the excuse I need to hop on a place and run away from Spain.  Of course, taking this option means on Christmas Day I'll wind up in a random hostel wherever I happen to end up, with no guarantees of good company or Christmas cheer, which doesn't sound like the greatest version of Christmas to me.

4. Misery loves company
The useful thing about being me is that I've got friends scattered all around the world - and they're concentrated in Europe!  Off the top of my head I can think of three or four other Aussies living away from home who might appreciate some familiar company to make Christmas a little less...well, sad. Whether I go to them, they come to me or we both meet in a third location, I'm sure two lonely hearts can find a way to make Christmas more fun for the both of us!

5. Find a surrogate family
Instead of heading off a trip and trusting to Providence about where I land on December 25, I could always head back to somewhere I've been before that would open its doors to a bunch of strangers all looking for a bit of Christmas love.  I'm thinking specifically of a hostel in Scotland where I worked briefly as one of the team, and which would be happy to welcome me back into the family.  Chances are there'll be a few other lost souls who've wound up there for Noel, and we'll make our own Christmas together - probably involving haggis and getting drunk on eggnog flavoured with local Scotch whisky!
The delightful Fort William Backpackers' in Scotland
6. Ask Santa for a teleporter for Christmas
Though to be honest I'm not quite sure how he'd get into my apartment, since there's no chimney....

There's well over a month before Christmas, so I still have time to decide on the lonely fashion in which I'll try and make the best of December 25th.  Mind you, if anyone can sell me on any of the above options, or come up with a better one, then I'm all ears! ¡Vámanos!

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