Christmas With A Palm Tree

16 January 2008

Go northly

The Cheat says Christmas in Spain isn't the same as back home, so go home, or at least North.

Christmas in a palm tree-lined beach town can be disturbing.  I know what your family and friends back in your home country are telling you, all that “you’re so lucky” crap and whining on about how cold the snow is and how much they want to get away, and who knows maybe you are inclined to agree.  Maybe you are in your first year as a Spain expat, in which case your opinion on this one is moot.  Sorry but there it is.  You haven’t been away long enough to get really, really homesick, or waken up one morning too many to another 300W loud Spanish rush hour.  Yup, you’re still in the honeymoon phase buddy, and that means palm trees in December still signifies escape to a better life, victory over your half-remembered but fully reviled former life.

For the rest of us, walking into a Corte Ingles and finding some 5’6” Peruvian kid dressed in a red sash and wearing a Santa’s little helper hat is just downright harsh.  You see what I am getting at here?  I hate the globalization and commercialization of Christmas, and so I do not want or expect some kind of Norman Rockwell “Leave it to Beaver” Christmas in Sevilla, or to see reindeer pumping gas down at the old Repsol station.  No, that would be cultural colonialism, and what with half the teens in Europe wearing levis and smoking Marlboro’s we got enough of that already.

What I am trying to appeal to here is the romantic sense of what Christmas could be, and seems to become the older we get, particularly us from English speaking, more northern climes.  Ok, so you didn’t get the G.I. Joe Dragonfly ™ attack helicopter when you were 9, but remember how exciting the buildup was?  Remember how you talked it over with your friends in the schoolyard?  Or later on how you used to go to your first boyfriend/girlfriend’s house to hand over that gift you saved and planned two months for?  Man, that was some pretty heavy duty excitement.  All that anticipation, amplified by the changing weather, the deep cold, and yes, the styling, coloured lights and shared excitement of a million other people wading into the Christmas tides along with you.

It may be that you are not really a religious person, may not be Christian, and may not care for the cheap-ass depreciation that a lot of the Christmas tradition has endured.  Of course, you may also have no heart, friends or sense of romance in your entire body either.  But come on Scrooge, this is such a great time, regardless of where you come from and what your attitudes may be about it.  Take your Spanish friends and go in with them on their traditions, like eating turron and handing out gifts on Reyes (January 6th).

But more than that, I recommend you book a cheap-as-nails flight with Easyjet or the like to somewhere north of the Alps and crunch your boots in some snow.  I spent my Christmas break in Berlin, and man, did it ever sink in well to be wrapped up in woolens, sipping hot glühwien and strolling past rosy cheeked, like spirited others.  Go skiing if you are too cynical for the ho ho ho stuff, but go, get out of here, and thank me later. 

My feeling is that as expats, at the end of the day, all we have to remind us of where we come from are our traditions.  Being cold, having a runny nose, drinking hot concoctions (with or without alcohol), trading presents on the floor under a tree… the images may have become stereotypes, but the feelings were and are real.  Save the pina coladas by the playa for January, then you can be smug with your long-suffering northerly friends.

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