Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tis the Season!

Knowing how the holidays are starting earlier and earlier these days in the States, I figured it wasn't too early to do a holiday blog entry because it's starting to look a lot like Christmas here too!  While Josh was here in Barcelona for most of December last year, coming home for Christmas and New Years, this will be the first time we will be here for the holidays.  We opted to not come home this year since in reality, and not to be blunt, but it's one holiday season out of what will hopefully be many many more surrounded by our friends and family at home.  We wanted to see what the holidays are like here - the Christmas markets, the lights, the events. 

Since it's the holiday quickly approaching, let's talk turkey...Thanksgiving that is.  They don't have it here - probably has something to do with the fact that the Pilgrims didn't land here ;).  So while Josh has something like 15 public holidays each year, Thanksgiving is not one of them.  And the kids have school as well on November 25th.  The only thing for me will be that I won't need to work since all my clients will be off!!  Yeah for me!

However, since we have children, it's important to us that we continue with American traditions even though we are far from home.  It's a part of OUR culture.  I'm always talking about how the kids are learning about other cultures but this is an opportunity for them to learn more about our own and from a different perspective.  So while pavo (spanish for turkey) is not easily found I've heard you can get them.  When Josh returns from his visit in the States we'll see how we go about doing that.  Most likely we'll celebrate it that weekend instead of Thursday since as I said, Josh and the kids won't be home during the day.  And as of right now it's just the 4 of us which is just fine - if it changes and we end up joining others or they join us, that's fine too.  But for now we will play it by ear, but we will celebrate it in some way.  I'm sure I'll post pics and an entry of whatever it is that we end up doing.

On to Christmas.  Let's start off by saying that while the commercialism here is significantly less than it is back at home, they still have it here.  Workers have been stringing the lights since right around Halloween though it is my understanding that they will not be turned out til around December 1 which at least gives me the peace of mind that it's not tooooo early.  And I have to say I was surprised when I went into El Corte Ingles (our Macys) the other day to find not just one section of toys but that they expand the toy section to another floor where they put their "seasonal" items.  Apparently toys are now seasonal ;) 

But as far as the season itself, it just doesn't feel like the holidays yet.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's because it's not that cold here yet and I'm used to a New England fall/winter still.  There won't be any snow and I know it doesn't always snow on Christmas at home but there is always a chance and most likely sometime before December 25th it has snowed which at least gets you in the holiday mood.  The lights twinkling underneath freshly fallen snow.  There is nothing more festive if you ask me! 

We had debated going to Switzerland for Christmas so we could enjoy some of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe, however, our kids still believe in Santa (which I love!) and I can't imagine hauling their stash of gifts to Switzerland or any other country for that matter so that Santa can deliver them wherever we are.  So we will stay here in Barcelona and then head off to a vacation in the Canary Islands (I know, sad pathetic life right) after Christmas and will ring in the New Year there instead of home with our friends and kids. 

I've purchased a fake tree as a backup as I've heard that you can get real ones down at the big Christmas markets here as well but not having a car and not wanting to necessarily haul it thru the city by foot, I want to be prepared, again we have kids and I have no idea what the supply / demand situation is here and Christmas isn't Christmas without a tree. 

It will be just the 4 of us - strange to me because this is a holiday that like Thanksgiving we are used to sharing with a group and continuing on our traditions of the past.  With all our friends at home - putting together the luminaries, making cookies with all the kids and then having Chinese food on Christmas eve - and after dinner going outside to spread out the reindeer food in the snow for Santa's reindeer to find their way to our houses and then taking a walk to see all the luminaries lit up in the 'hood.  To having my dad come over on Christmas morning to help the kids open their presents at the crack of dawn.  Then heading to the Cape where we have our potato pancakes before opening even more gifts and then later, Christmas dinner and most years, trivia.  And somewhere in between Christmas and New Years, getting together with my family for more of that yummy "holiday" Chinese food and yup, more presents.  But it's not about the presents (ok, maybe for the kids it is) but about spending quality time with each other - we don't get together as groups often enough these days.  Sadly, life gets in the way.  And this time of year for me especially is a chance to take the time to spend quality time with those that I love.  And it's what makes being away from home especially hard this year.

While I'm going to miss our traditions, I will admit, I'm looking forward to making a few new ones this year and I'll be honest it took me a while to come not only to terms with this idea but to also embrace it. Like I mentioned, this isn't forever, it's temporary.  And a chance for us to do something new during a time of year where we usually do the same year in and year out (and don't get me wrong, I LOVE that).  One of the traditions I have to thank Lisa F for while I was home in October.  We're going to make our own ornaments this year for our tree.  We left all our decorations at home in the States since we have no storage here (don't ask me where the fake tree will live once the season is over) and this will be a chance to spend quality family time together which I'm looking forward to.  And even though it's not my family's tradition it actually was a tradition I had in my family growing up and I look forward to putting new life into an old, essentially forgotten tradition.  As far as other new traditions we will be starting, other than one specific one, the rest only time will tell - the Christmas markets open up in early December and I'm hoping to get some ideas.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with one hint to the other one - his name is Caga Tio and a rough translation into English is the pooping log.  Let's just say the boys are super excited about the idea of a Christmas pooping log and we'll leave it at that - you'll have to come back later to learn more about this Catalan Christmas tradition!

Photograph of a typicalcontemporary Tió
To those at home, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving this coming week.  We have a lot to be thankful for this year, not the least in which is our opportunity to live here in Barcelona.  I will miss you all this week but we will be thinking of you!  I look forward to sharing our "new" holiday season with you over the coming weeks!

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