There is nothing quite like a festival that you would usually celebrate with extended family to remind you that you are far from home.
So what happens when you suddenly bump into Christmas while on a sabbatical year?
So you have settled into your new home in a new country, found your feet, your daily routine, and suddenly the Christmas holidays are upon you. Two weeks specifically designed for families to congregate and celebrate together, except…. living in a new country means your extended family are an ocean away.
How best to manage this situation and the expectation of your children who have likely only experienced a few Christmases that were probably spent within the embrace of an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents?
I describe this situation from experience, as it is exactly where we found ourselves during our year in Spain. We had no family to spend Christmas with and as our new Spanish friends scattered to the four winds to be with their respective families, I realised we would be alone pondering what was happening in Australia.
It had me hastily looking for something to keep us occupied during this period. We decided the best antidote was to sign up for an activity that engaged us fully. We considered a bike riding tour but being December in Europe, it would be too cold and rainy. What about a cruise on the Mediterranean? Too expensive and too cold.
Ok then what about something that we couldn’t do at Christmas time in Australia?
All of a sudden I had it…. we would spend Christmas SKIING in the mountains. I was very proud of the idea but was met with apprehension from my husband who thought it all very expensive. I had spent a year as a 16 year old exchange student in a small town in the Swiss alps and suddenly imagined how amazing would it be to take my family to the same place to learn to ski where I had.
And so I made it my mission to find cheap airfares to Geneva (thank you Easyjet!) and accommodation in the mountains (thank you Airbnb). My wonderful Swiss host sister invited us stay with her for a night in Yverdon and we stayed with another school friend in Geneva on the way home. In between I found a cute Airbnb apartment in Crans-Montana ski resort where I had learned to ski so many decades earlier. The lovely owner of the apartment was very generous in lending us her daughters’ skis and ski clothes for our kids. The plan was coming together.
Our children were so excited to be in the snow, learning to ski for the first time and tobogganing every afternoon that they barely had time to think about what everyone else was doing for Christmas back home- genius!!
And when all was said and done, my husband agreed it was one of the best holidays we had ever had as a family. That was very gracious of him considering I took him (a first time skier who grew up in not very snowy Mexico) on the black runs on the glacier only for him to have to remove his skis and walk and slide back down the mountain. Bad wifey!!
We have now unwittingly created two ski-obsessed children whose new passion is not easily fostered where we live in Australia. We solved one issue only to create another…oh well!