There’s a first for everything that happens. Since we just moved to Amsterdam this summer, this was our first Christmas abroad. We are just starting to settle in, so a flight back to the United States was not in the cards. My family has traditions that haven’t changed much except for marriages and children, so it’s nice to figure things out for ourselves.
Of course, we went to the German Christmas Markets, and they got us in the Christmas mood! When we got back we bought a tiny (fake) Christmas tree, cheap little ornaments, and small strand of lights. As part of a tradition that has been in place for a while, we brought back one ornament from Cologne. It didn’t really fit on the tree, but that’s okay. It’s the spirit that counts. We have a great collection of ornaments from past travels, but they haven’t made the trip over the ocean quite yet.
For Christmas Day, we met an American friend and a Dutch friend of hers at our favorite Dim Sum restaurant, the Sea Palace. I would be happy to do that every holiday! We ate well getting various dishes and trying them to see what was what. After being sufficiently full, they had the idea of taking a stroll down Damrak and seeing the lights on the way and the huge Christmas tree on Dam Square. But of course we took a photo in front of Central Station first. I think it’s one of the pretty buildings in the city!
We were lucky because public transportation ran all day, just on a different schedule. And people on the bus had bags of gifts as they headed to the homes of families and friends to eat and be merry. The lights of the Amsterdam Light Festival were all on so you could still enjoy it on a chilly Christmas evening. But in general Christmas is mainly a quiet day for people who live here. There were a bunch of tourists out and about though. Even the hop-on hop-off bus was running!
We have a second day of Christmas here that is sometimes thought of as Boxing Day. As far as I can tell, it’s simply another day to spend with more people you love. So if you spend Christmas with family, then you spend the second day of Christmas with friends, and shops may or may not be open for this day.
It was a wonderful day with friends, great food, and pretty lights. We didn’t exchange any gifts with anyone and it was lovely. We aren’t anti-gift, it’s just that buying gifts because you are expected to because of the holiday isn’t so fun. Of course, a simple bottle of wine or chocolates are always a nice if you are giving a gift.
Did we miss our normal traditions? A little bit. I missed my mom’s blueberry pancakes, and lunch at my grandparents’ with the rest of my mom’s side of the family. But in the end, this is a new life with new challenges in a new culture with traditions we have to come up with. It’s wonderful and makes us create our own lives.
Have you spent a holiday away or have done something out of the ordinary? Did you try to replicate traditions or took advantage of the situation and created your own? What did you miss most?