It’s been five years since I’ve spent a Christmas and/or New Year’s Eve at home, in Montreal. It’s always shocking to my friends when they hear I don’t spend the holidays with my family, but those are simply the best holidays ever.
When I was growing up, winter holidays were a family thing. Everyone would gather together at my grandparents’ house (8 hours from Montreal) and have a few days off. But as everyone is getting busier and kids getting older, this tradition has faded away.
5 years ago, my boyfriend and I have decided we would spend the holidays abroad. It’s the only time of the year that we really have our holidays together (as we were students or working on call). At first it was a bit shocking for our parents, but they understood. And we’ve been doing it every year since.
I’ve spent New Year’s Eves in Cartagena (Colombia) and London, as well as spending Christmas in Paris and Brussels. This year, we’re headed to Reykjavik for both Christmas and NYE. I’ve never been so ecstatic about holidays since we started to travel each December.
First, traveling to Europe (from Canada) in winter is much cheaper. Transatlantic flights cost less than 900$, hotels are also less pricey (except on NYE!). Even if it’s not like going to Mexico or Cuba, Europe is warmer than Montreal at that time of the year.
But, really, I’ve gained back faith in Christmas songs (yes!) and all the decorations and lights because of my trips. Christmas for me isn’t about the gifts; it’s about the feeling which is unique to it. Christmas lights, nice food and drinks, pretty dresses, being off for a few days…
My first Christmas abroad was spent in Belgium, and it was the best. It’s as fresh in my memory as if it was yesterday. I’ve discovered the joy of Christmas markets, as we’ve also been to Gent, Bruges and Antwerp. There were carols sang on Brussels’ Grand Place, as well as a giant Christmas crib and a show of lights. A glass of mulled wine in one hand and a waffle in the other: that was my idea of a perfect Christmas.
The best part of it is experiencing different ways to celebrate the holidays. In Colombia, there was a big party in the lively old city of Cartagena, and in the morning the streets were empty of a soul until about noon, as the party finished late in the morning. In London, I waited six hours under Big Ben to see the fireworks at the London Eye on December 31. In Paris, I’ve visited the Christmas market and been to the illuminated Concorde’s ferris wheel, as well as having a croissant for Christmas breakfast!
As long as I’ll be able to do it, I’ll travel abroad for the holidays. It’s by travelling that I’ve found the true meaning of Christmas.