Christmas is always bittersweet – it’s an ending and a beginning and this year is especially difficult. By next Christmas, we’ll be land-based, I’ll be going to school, my parents will be working, and our boat will be gone.
This is my eighth and last Christmas on the boat and December feels like it’s passed very quickly. We’ve visited three countries this month alone – we left Panama on December 1st, the day my advent calendar went up and sailed to Costa Rica. From Costa Rica we arrived in Mexico, and we’ve been here for the past week.
I’m a person who likes traditions and adapts to new ones rather reluctantly. Every December 1st, the hand-made advent calendar that my godmother made goes up on the wall, and I leap into the frenzy of Christmas baking. But sometimes it’s a bit tricky to keep to your beloved traditions when you don’t know where you’ll be tomorrow.
When we decorate, we have to make sure that our ornaments are placed in such a way that they don’t fall over when we’re at sea. I experiment with icings and sweets that won’t melt when I decorate cookies, and it turns out that sticking snowflake stickers to the windows when we’re sailing isn’t such a stellar idea. In a house, that wouldn’t be a problem because you don’t need to see where you’re heading!
Anyways, Christmas is also never perfect, which is part of the joy of it. You get strange local sweets in your stockings, your tortierre plans go out the window when you can’t find ground pork, and on Christmas Eve you end up watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special with new Australian friends who reminisce about old Doctor Who.
You can’t find eggnog in the stores so you make your own or try a strange local version called Rompope (it’s bright yellow, and laced with rum). Firecrackers bought from local markets end up in stockings along with the more traditional candy canes, and your gingerbread house collapses in a glorious sticky pile from the humidity.
In the future, I won’t remember the bad parts of my strange Christmases – being away from family, having no snow, missing home – I’ll remember the strange, wonderful parts that made my Christmases so special.
I’ll remember going to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus with a bunch of cruisers in Mexico on Christmas Eve. I’ll remember the Australian family Christmas pageants (complete with tarty elves!). I’ll remember going to a stranger’s house in South Africa for Christmas dinner and being immediately absorbed by the huge extended family.
I’ll remember all the things that made my Christmases so special and unique, and I’ll look forward to all future Christmases and the new memories that they’ll bring.
So Merry Christmas everyone. Have a very happy day.