Looking back over some family photos from Christmas 2011 got me thinking.


With the holidays approaching, I’m hung up on the always perplexing question of what to give my kids for Christmas, which is the holiday we celebrate.


Seems like every year, just after Halloween, I get excited and anxious in equal proportions.


I make lists, I plan, I start my Christmas errands, of which there are far too many.  But this year is different. Celebrating Christmas in the style to which we’ve accustomed ourselves makes absolutely no sense here in Spain.

If we manage to find a tree somewhere, it’ll be pint size, and, with all my ornaments and other tree-decorating accoutrements in storage back home, we’ll have nothing to drape on it but homecrafted stuff. But maybe that’ll be cool. Strings of popcorn and “caramelos” (hard candy) wouldn’t be difficult, right? And maybe a tinfoil star for the top?  I could delegate the tree ornamenting to Miss Zinnia, who would not only rise to the task but shine!

I realize I am smiling. Being unburdened by all my stuff could be a very nice thing indeed.

And all the home decorations? Well, we could spend an afternoon cutting out paper snowflakes, for starters. And maybe hang them around our loft, just so?  For this, I could enlist the help of a daughter who loves design.  I provide the supplies, she heads up the effort, gives us our jobs, keeps us on task, and stages the home, so to speak.  And a subsequent photo shoot for Habitania magazine–no big deal.

The baking, I can handle. I have a buttermilk cookie recipe given to me by my childhood BFF, Melissa. And we can surely find some Vince Guaraldi on Spotify and make a Charlie Brown Christmas playlist so we’ll have some classic background music to dose up on while we’re also dosing up on cookie batter. I bet I can even find some Christmas sprinkles for the tops of the cookies.

And we can go carolling. We sing all the time anyway, shamelessly, and we’ve made lots of friends here who would, at the very least, be amused by our attempts to spread a little musical cheer. We have coats. And scarves. And gloves. And ready voices.

Ahh, but the gifts!  What to give my children?


Whatever we present to them we’ll need to pack up and take home next summer, so there’s that to consider. And my “wrapping factory,” (perhaps you have one, too?), also in storage, won’t help me one bit come December, when I’m normally closeted with my supplies and madly trying to create masterpieces of paper and ribbon that rival the gifts inside the boxes. Nope, not going to assemble a wrapping factory here.

What to give, what to give?  One thing is sure, though: whatever we do, it will be simple, and it will be more about experiencing than opening, more about seeing than collecting.

I like the sound of a little road trip.  Just the five of us this year, in some town no one’s heard of, waking up on Christmas morning, wishing each other well, breakfasting on pastries and breads and cheeses, then heading out into the day to hike through castles we’ll never set foot in again.  Hmm. I’m game. (And I’m smiling pretty big now.)

What are you doing for the holidays?  Are you going to stick with tradition or shake it up?  Do tell.

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