I like Christmas. A lot.
Maybe more than I like peanut butter.
Ok that is getting a little carried away, but you get the idea.
Maybe it is because the Christmas’ of my childhood closely resembled those of movies and greeting cards. Growing up in semi-rural Nova Scotia we went “oot da back” and cut down our own tree. These would be classified as Charlie Brown trees in some books but my Mother, who still carries on this tradition, still likes to refer to them as “natural.”
It was cold and dark during winter, we had frost on the windows and a wood stove to huddle next to. Most years we had a white Christmas and nothing was better to get you in the Christmas mood than when it snowed big, white fluffy flakes on Christmas Eve that drifted and swirled in a bitter northerly wind.
I have a big extended family and we all got together to exchange presents and eat too much good food. On the way home from such get togethers we would delight in counting the houses along the highway that were decorated with Christmas lights.
Living in Canada I knew that much of the landmass that was north of 60 degrees belonged to Canada. I also knew that the Inuit people had lived in snow houses up there for hundreds of years so it wasn’t hard to believe that Santa could live there too. In fact I figured he was probably Canadian.
I guess you could say that my youth was saturated with all the classic Christmas mythology and imagery. Therefore it isn’t surprising that I have a rather sentimental soft spot for the holiday. But I have only spent one Christmas up north in the last decade, the other nine have more like the Aussie Christmas’ of Steve’s youth; hot, green and tropical.
For the first few years away from winter that I had a hard time feeling Christmas-y.
White hot sand is no substitute for crisp white snow. Then a couple of years ago I decided that what was sending me into a homesick head spin for the days of Christmas’ past was that I was trying to recreate Christmas in Canada instead of embracing Christmas onboard. So instead of “dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the one’s I used to know” I started to get into a “Mele Kalikimaka” frame of mind. (You can always count on Bing to get your through the holidays!)
The year we were in Panama for the holidays a local girl on a boat next door made me a Christmas tree. It is a piece of driftwood that she found and painted. It has shimmery green branches and is crowned not by an angel but a sparkly butterfly. It disassembles, is easily stored and is perfect for a boat. It is also unique, beautiful and reflects the tropical climate we’ve been sailing in for the past 7 years.
We started out with just a few ornaments but every year the collection grows; a Santa from Japan, a glass mouse dressed as Mrs.Claus from home, a handmade bird with a present in its beak from an old friend and of course, a hippopotamus. This year Steve bought me a small wooden fruit bat that was carved in Vanuatu, a perfect reminder of our travels in the last 12 months.
In an attempt to meld both our expectations of how to celebrate Christmas, years ago we start the tradition of having a nice meal together on Christmas Eve. Then after breakfast and presents on Christmas day we head to the beach. This year we had BBQ’d chicken, complete with grilled stuffing, potatoes and carrots, which we ate off real plates around the big cockpit table that doesn’t get taken out of storage often. We put on some nice clothes, popped a bottle of sparkling wine and enjoyed a leisurely, quiet dinner together with all the right tastes and smells to hint at Christmas in Canada.
The next day we found a little uninhabited island with a tiny little beach, invited the neighbouring boat and made a fire, cooked some snags, ate fancy finger food and roasted marshmallows while enjoying cold beer under a bright, sunny tropical sky. It was casual and summery and full of good company the way an Aussie Christmas often is.
We didn’t have too many presents under our little tree this year, it turns out Gizo isn’t the shopping mecca we had hoped the second largest town in all the Solomon Islands would be. But, just as the Grinch discovered, Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Weird cans of tuna do though and at least they came with a smile.
This year was the first time in 5 years we’d celebrated onboard and it was just the right balance of private and social, north and south, old and new. I felt festive, at home and very Christmas-y indeed. By giving some of the old expectations of what the holidays should be a little twist we realized what Christmas could be and are starting to make our own Christmas traditions. This year we even re-wrote a much beloved Christmas carol to better reflect Christmas onboard! We hope it brings you joy.
The 12 Days of Christmas
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
- 12 Dogs a Barking
- 11 Pigs a Snuffling
- 10 Lizards Leaping
- 9 Palm Trees Swaying
- 8 Frigates Flying
- 7 Dolphins Swimming
- 6 Roosters Crowing
- 5 COCONUTS
- 4 Hermit Crabs
- 3 Starfish
- 2 Odd Thongs (flip flops not underpants)
- And a fruit bat in a mango tree!