This December (2018) was a real Christmas adventure. Truly a generous over indulgence of Christmas !!! Wonder how ?? Having turned a nomad since 3 years traveling all the time in Europe, when I went exploring the Scandinavian & Baltic countries this winter, revisiting Christmas felt the best thing to do. My visit to these wonderful 5 European countries added 5 new Christmas traditions to my Christmas dictionary that completely changed my otherwise short-sighted Christmas perspective.
I moved to France 3 years ago. Despite a super hectic student life & a vibrant evening life full of visits & dinners with my new friends, life in Paris strangely felt empty. It was my first time abroad. I now realised how challenging was life abroad. My family & friends with whom I had spent a lifetime were now geographically separated from me. Different time zones made our communication scarce. I had no one to talk to in India after 17:00 Paris Time as it would be past midnight IST. It was no longer a life where after a long day’s work talking to my people made my day complete. Coming from India to France also changed the festivities in my life. I could no longer celebrate Diwali. Diwali meant family time as is Christmas in the West. In no time Christmas was now my new “Diwali”. But having no family in France made it again a wrong time of the year I was ready to exchange for anything on earth. It felt lonely & deserted period.
After a year of this family-deprived unwelcome solitude abroad, I developed a new habit of binge watching Hallmark Christmas movies when the countdown to my 2nd Christmas (in France) started in November. It soon became my favourite evening pass time that sort of filled in the family-void. Christmas is about togetherness. And watching stories of happy families united over Christmas made me happy too. I was taking in all the good Christmas vibes. After work when I would return home I would have a Hallmark Christmas film waiting for me. They (films) would accompany me right from evening snacks through making dinner to having dinner & sometimes even to falling asleep. I had found a Christmas-mate who would never desert me.
However there was a twist in my discovery of Christmas. Hallmark films were based on Christmas stories from the United States of America. And little did I know Christmas could also have cousins; lots of them !!! I mean different traditions & stories in every other country where Christmas is celebrated. Before, Christmas was just a festival from the West to me (in comparison to India). What I saw in the films was Christmas to me. But Christmas reality was confusing because it was diverse. I first saw marchés de noël (Christmas markets) in France. But I never saw a real Christmas tree in a city centre in France like they have in NY or Chicago. We all love the Christmas lights of Champs-Elysées in Paris. Isn’t it magical ? I simply did not feel the Christmas in my bones surrounded by the artificial Christmas trees created out of illuminations in the commercial centres. I longed for gingerbread house. I wished to see ice sculpting competitions. I dreamt of white Christmas. I ended up realising French Christmas was very different from their American neighbours across the Atlantic. Christmas turned out as diverse as we humans. Interesting ! By the time my 3rd Christmas approached in Europe I hopped on a voyage unravelling some more magic of Christmas in Scandinavia & the Baltic states.
Unbelievable was all I could utter ! The picture of Christmas in my mind mostly inspired by American Hallmark films was now a reality. Not in the America but in its neighbourhood. I was a happy spectator who witnessed the Christmas magic unfolding in front of my eyes. Where to start ! I saw humongous real Christmas trees beautifully decorated in city centres. I visited Christmas markets which had gingerbread houses & ice sculptures too. What a culinary adventure it was to discover new versions of hot mulled wine. I loved the Swedish glögg. And the delicious candies & sweet almonds too ! Tallinn surprised me with an open air ice skating rink next to the Town Hall square. We rejoiced in Stockholm on the Day of Saint Lucia where girls dressed in white wear head gears with candles. Christmas markets in Riga recreated the Medieval Pagan scene with people disguised in Medieval outfits serving hot food to customers. Am I forgetting something here ? The White Christmas all along my journey !
Revisiting Christmas across Europe helped me find my true Christmas spirit. It taught me togetherness does not have to be limited to just one’s own family but togetherness can also be celebrated with strangers. And that we make Christmas merriest of all times by by spreading kindness around us.
©Anusha Sakkari | All the images used in the article may be subject to copyright.
Anusha Around The World