Christmas time is pretty much my favorite time of year, with the exception of the cold cold New England weather (though I will admit to slightly just slightly missing the snow). And so it was really hard for me to not be at home with my friends and family this time of year. Thankgiving, while great, is just not Christmas. I could manage Thanksgiving here, but Christmas is a whole other animal. I’m not even Catholic and yet, I’m drawn to this holiday full of family, friends, fun, and giving to others. It’s a time where everyone gets along and the spirit of the season tends to be contagious. I love looking at all the houses all decorated, the smell of the pine trees, the chaos of getting everything ready and getting the shopping done and of course knowing all the time we get to spend with everyone we love.
Our neighborhood and family have lots of Christmas traditions that we will be missing this year. Amongst them setting up the luminaries in the ‘hood, making cookies for Santa with a bunch of the boys’ friends, eating Chinese food with ours and the kids friends… then on Christmas Day, having my dad over to help open the gifts and then later on heading to the Cape to see Josh’s family (and eat lots of yummy potato pancakes!). It literally pains me to not be doing this year and yet, I’ve survived it – learning I can survive more than I realized and that it’s my husband and children being with me that make the most difference in the world!
We debated back and forth on if we should go home this year for Christmas. The kids have 16 days off (considered a short break here this year!) so it would have been doable from a time standpoint. But after much discussion several months ago we had decided that this would be our only Christmas away, after all, our contract was supposed to end in December 2011 which would put us home in time for the holidays next year (however now that we are staying longer we’ll have to re-evaluate this plan for future holidays). So what would one holiday away from home be in the scheme of many holidays with our family. Based on that we decided we would go on a European vacation instead. At first it was going to be somewhere Christmasy but then we decided to stick with Christmas in Barcelona where the kids could open their presents at home, play with their gifts and we could just relax. Instead we will be heading to the Canary Islands in a few days to relax and play in the sun!!
However, as much as I’m looking forward to the Canaries, I think we’ve all been a little down about not being home. I see this the most in Aidan. His actions in the last few weeks are indicitive to me that he’s missing out on being with his friends this time of year. We have lots of traditions at home for Christmas Eve and Christmas at home – some of which we will try to do here and other things we will have to create some new traditions. We made our own ornaments this year instead of using ones from home (which are still at home). We bought caganers and caga tios – Catalan traditions, embracing our “new” lives here. And we will not be travelling on Christmas at all, a first for us – staying home all day to relax and play.
Christmas Eve we tried to do some of our usual stuff embellished with opening our caga tio gifts. First we did our Christmas cookies – Liam a little more into it than Aidan this year. Though Aidan embraced the decorating part which was good. They put out a plate each for Santa (poor Santa was mighty full Christmas night!) along with a letter to him that they each wrote. I think the boys both missed having their friends to make cookies with them – a tradition in our house in Attleboro. We missed all of the kids here this year!!!!
After doing our cookies, the boys were ready to “attack” their caga tios. You may have remembered this from my previous blog entry but here is a cliff notes version of the caga tio. It’s literally translated to a poo log and you are supposed to hit him with a stick (this is after feeding him for a month) and sing a song while telling him to poop presents for you. Seems simple enough right? Except that the blanket that the caga tio came with isn’t that big to hide much under AND my kids are a little shrewder than I realized. Aidan noticed right away that the blanket looked like it had been adjusted and started to tell Liam something was under it. Aidan wasn’t thrilled with his gift (of tiddlywinks which I happen to love!) but Liam loved his gift of an Imaginext Airplane that stayed with us for the rest of the night. The video of them beating their caga tios is right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9RZmqT9GYg
Dinner time! Our annual tradition is to have Chinese food with our neighbor friends but given that our friends aren’t here we were going to attempt it on our own. However, we had 3 reasons for not going – 1. The chinese food places didn’t open til late (like 8 or 9 – too late for the kids) ; 2. We hadn’t had chinese here yet and didn’t know how it would be; 3. We couldn’t get a reservation on such late notice, being the slackers we are and attempting it on Christmas Eve morning! Instead, we opted to go to an Irish bar that Josh’s co-workers had said was good. It seemed a bit casual for Christmas Eve but then looking back, is Chinese food much more formal??? So off we went to Dunne’s Irish Pub near the Jaume stop. And I’m disappointed in the fact that we didn’t find this little gem before. Most pubs or bars you go in to here are smokey and cramped but this place was super clean, bright, high ceilings and looked pretty new. And bonus, the food was good too!
After dinner we quickly went down to City Hall in search of the caganer in the nativity scene. We didn’t find him the last time but this time he was there! I was really surprised how empty that this area was given that it was Christmas Eve and I would think there would be more families down by the nativity scene. But from what I understand Christmas isn’t as big here as it is at home – Three Kings will be much bigger (though we will be celebrating that in the Canaries) and there are much more celebrations surrounding that.
Christmas morning I was up long before the kids. This was a total surprise but then we do have these amazing darkening shades that work wonders in the morning. That and it’s still dark til almost 9AM here these days. Aidan was under the impression, that sadly Santa would not be coming to see him. Yes, it was that bad of a week. And so no one was more excited to see tons of presents under the tree than he was! And Liam, my god, no one can unwrap a present faster. He got very upset when he would pick up a present and find out it was Aidan’s. I know it’s the age and it was pretty amusing to watch him. Aidan was a bit more patient and after whipping thru the first few presents he actually slowed down and took his time.
The big presents of this year – Aidan got a new DS XL (his old DS unwillingly going to his little brother) and a new ipod (no longer having to share the old hand me down one with his brother). Liam got a 2 wheel big boy scooter (we’ll pass the 3 wheel one along to someone), Alphie the robot (remember him from the 80s??) and some cool Toy Story Action Links. Some sharing gifts were an Imaginext Air Craft Carrier, a Super Mario Race Track and lots and lots of Super Mario action figures to play with.
They played nicely pretty much all day – plenty of toys to go around for sure! Josh made us a fabulous breakfast with french toast, egg in the nest, bacon and amazing hot chocolate (thanks to our Angelina’s hot choc mix from our Paris trip this summer!) and I made cinnamon rolls from SCRATCH (yes, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks!). I’m still missing everyone from home but feeling better about being here right now. We’ll skype with everyone later on but in the meantime it’s been nice just hanging out in our pj’s without having to get out the door to go anywhere. Josh went out to the store and said a lot is actually open – like I said, Three Kings is much bigger here so I wouldn’t be surprised to see stuff open. Maybe we’ll take a little stroll out and about today to get some fresh air after playing inside ALL day!!!
Merry Christmas to all!!!