Dec 3, 2012

My Christmas Party Will Not be a Pity Party (Virtual Advent)

I’ve been taking part in Kelly and Marg’s Book Bloggers’ Virtual Advent Tour since 2007, the year when I started blogging, and I certainly didn’t want to break the tradition now. Usually my contribution is a review of a holidays-themed book, but I hope nobody minds if this time I take a more personal route. I’m a big fan of Christmas, for reasons perhaps best expressed by this song, but this year the holidays are going to be a lot different from what I’m used to. Because both my partner and I have started new jobs recently and will be working until right before Christmas, we won’t get to go home.

I know, I know: it could be a lot worse. I could be all alone in a foreign country, for starters, which fortunately isn’t the case. I could be apart from my family for negative reasons instead of positive ones. Or I could (*knocks on wood*) be able to go home because I didn’t have a job, and I’d feel miserable and terrified about the future all through the holiday season (much like I did last year). All in all, I know I’m very fortunate. Still, I’m going to give myself permission to mope just a little bit: after all, this is going to be my first Christmas ever away from home.

I hope I don’t sound heartless if I say that as much as I’d love to see my family, there are a bunch of other little things that I’m going to miss almost as much. I can always watch them open presents over Skype, but I will really miss the time spent hanging out with the cats and dogs, the Christmas food I grew up with, the ornaments I’ve accumulated over the years. Some I bought during trips; others were homemade gifts from friends; others still I can’t remember where I got, but I know I’ve had them for years. There’s something incredibly comforting about opening the Christmas box in early December every year and seeing the same old familiar things again, and that comfort and familiarity are a huge part of what Christmas is all about for me. And there’s also spending Christmas at my family’s house: my parents actually moved away from my childhood home a few years ago, but because the furniture and the general layout are about the same at their new place, it still feels like home to me. However, the place where I’m currently living is still too new to have that homey feeling I value so much at this time of the year.

But! The point of this post is not to mope at great length, but to share the strategies I’ve come up with to make this Christmas as nice as it can possibly be. Behold my master plan:
  • There will be travelling!
Just because we can’t go home it doesn’t mean we can’t go somewhere. We’ve managed to get a holiday cottage for a few days in what sounds like a very pretty village, and that’s where our merrymaking will take place. A white Christmas is probably too much to ask for, but a girl can dream. (Of course, in my dreams there are none of the transportation nightmares that unfailingly follow a snowfall.)
  • There will be a Christmas tree!
My ornaments may not be comfortingly familiar this year, but you have to start somewhere, right? We got ourselves a tiny tree that is at least a step up from Charlie Brown’s. Here’s what it looks like:

Small Christmas tree
It doesn’t actually look very small in the picture, but just to give you an idea, it’s standing on the desk and it’s barely any taller than my laptop. But I love it and that’s what matters. A few details:

Robin Christmas ornament
Wooden Santa Christmas ornament
Wooden angels Christmas ornament
Wooden angels Christmas ornament
Plus my stocking and gingerbread man:

Let it Snow Christmas stocking
Gingerbread man
And here’s my bookshelf looking all festive:

Bookshelf decorated with tinsel
  • There will be food!
I’m not sure to which extent I’ll be able to recreate the Christmas menu I’m used to, since there are some ingredients I might not be able to find here, but I’m going to do my very best. And of course, we’ll have traditional treats like late-night hot chocolate and cookies aplenty :D But I’m willing to try new things this year, so if you wanted to leave me some of your favourite Christmas recipes, I’d be very thankful.
  • There will be music!
I love the fact that so many of my favourite bands have released Christmas albums or EPs. Between The Boy Least Likely To, Emmy the Great, Allo Darlin’, and of course Sufjan Stevens, we’re absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to seasonal music. Here’s a song that captures the kind of Christmas we’re aiming for this year:

  • There will be reading!
You know, every year I stubbornly try to find the perfect Christmas book, even though I already know what it is: Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. So this year I’m just going to cave and re-read it. In addition to that, I’m planning to treat myself to what I hope will be comforting children’s classics all through December: Moominland Midwinter, some Joan Aiken, and Lucy M. Boston’s Green Knowe series. What do you think I should add to this list?
  • Finally, there will be movies!
We have about a gazillion movie marathons planned for the long December evenings: a Back to the Future trilogy evening, which we’ve been meaning to have for ages, watching Moonrise Kingdom at long last, and perhaps throwing in some classic Christmas favourites like Scrooged or The Muppets Christmas Carol. Again, if you have any suggestions for perfect Christmas or wintery movies that will keep homesickness at bay, I’m all ears.

Huge thanks to Marg and Kelly for hosting the Book Bloggers’ Advent Tour again. The other participants today are Book Nut and The True Book Addict, so make sure you visit them too. And here are my posts from previous years:

2011: The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
2010: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (co-review with Chris)
2009: A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
2008: A Portuguese Christmas Recipe
2007: A Christmas Miscellany


  1. The holiday cottage sounds wonderful! Maybe it will start a NEW tradition! :--) And someday you must do a post on photography and let us in the secret of how you get such great pictures (besides an obvious artistic eye!)

  2. I think your Christmas season sounds heavenly!!! Not that I don't wish you could have all the things you'll be missing, of course, but I think you've done a wonderful job at making this season shine anyway!!! :D

  3. I think your holidays sound wonderful! I work during the holidays, too, but Lorrie does not. Lucky him! So, no cottage in the woods for us. At least I am not as stressed out this year as previous years.

    Thanks for participating! You should have used the special '5 year button' we had made. :)

  4. The first holiday away from home is the worst; it does get easier. And it seems like you have a great game plan! Happy Christmas!

  5. I think you'll have a lovely Christmas even though you'll be missing some things. A few people I know are having to do the inlaw Christmas this year and though they agreed to trade off Christmases, I know they also are a bit sad not to be spending it with their family. Get your parents to put the animals on Skype even though it's not the same as geting to be with them.

  6. I may not get the usual Christmas this year, and although that's a "may" I can sympathise. Your plans sound great though, and particularly festive, a holiday cottage in winter is a wonderful idea. Hopefully you'll be able to find the food items, have you tried online?

  7. It sounds like you have a lovely and memorable holiday planned, Ana!

  8. Your holiday plans sound wonderful, Ana. Your tree is so beautiful - I guess the ornaments must be small, but they're so detailed! Reading children's classics during the holiday season is such a great idea. THE DARK IS RISING is one of my favourite children's books. I think I'll join you in a reread of it this month.

  9. aw these sound like great coping strategies!

    I hope your holidays are wonderful. I watched It Happened on 5th Avenue last night and if you like old movies it's definitely a charmer.

  10. I'm sure your Christmas will be wonderful - because you'll be making your own traditions. There will be some homesickness too, I'm sure, but also a lot of happiness, from the sound of it.

  11. That seems like a nice way to manage the holidays. Congratulations on finding a system that works for you and your family!

  12. Sorry! That just shows I shouldn't have multiple response windows open at once!

    I meant to say that I'm sorry you won't be able to spend the holidays with your family, but that it sounds like you've found some great coping mechanisms. And who knows?! Maybe you'll build some new traditions that will become part of your Christmas celebrations in the years to come!

  13. A Christmas spent in a small village sounds like a lovely way to spend your first one away from home, and you certainly sound as though you have lots of lovely things to fill your time with.

    I hope you enjoy it.

  14. Ana, this is my first year away from home on Christmas too. I am not leaving the comforts of home to spend hours in a car or on a plane, and that is just how I like it. I have a family Christmas planned, and my best friend will be here to celebrate it all with us. I will be sending peaceful and Merry Christmas vibes wherever you are, and I hope that your holiday is memorable and lovely.

  15. Aw, your tree and bookshelf look adorable! The ornaments really are sweet.

    I think you've got a good plan. I think my favorite Christmas movie (it's an old one) is White Christmas.

  16. I think you'll have a lovely time! The hot chocolate and cookies sound wonderful:) I'm saving myself a Jasper Fforde book to read this Christmas and have already ordered my box set of True Blood (but I think I will be watching that by myself as no one else is into it!)

  17. I know how you feel because I've been there myself. You just have to create some new traditions and memories for yourself.

  18. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas you've got planned Ana.

    I've got a few books I'd like to read over during my time off, though which ones keep changing!

    I have to say, it was with almost a giddy delight I broke out the xmas playlist and hit play on Marshmallow World last week! ;-)

  19. I'm sorry to hear you won't be making it home this year, Ana, but I'm glad to hear that you're finding ways to make the best of it! I totally understand, I'm spending this year with my boyfriend's family which just isn't the same. I can hardly complain because it's not like it's horrible, but it's not HOME, you know?

    I approve of the activities listed, and will be doing essentially the same movie-wise! In fact, Scrooged is on my DVR right now.

  20. Aw, I'm sorry you won't get home this year! But it sounds like you have many good activities planned, and they all sound wondrous. I wish I could send you Social Sister's new puppy to snuggle at Christmas! HUG.

  21. Change is tough but it sounds like you've got a good plan. You'll be starting new traditions!

  22. That sounds fantastic! My go-to holiday movie, after The Muppet Christmas Carol, is Love Actually.

  23. We have ornaments like that too! Being away from home during the holidays is tough, but maybe starting new traditions will help your new place feel more like "home."

  24. I love your tree, and your first decorations, and your plans to go to a little cottage - that is going to be a marvelous memory afterwards, Ana.

    Most of all, the bittersweet time of being with your partner for the holidays, and away from family for the first time - it's an adventure, and sad too. No one ever said being a heroine was easy! But you are one, and the story of your life is so much better this year. I think you will be surprised how much fun skyping can be, even if it's not the same as having the Christmas meal together.

    Most of all,dear Ana, your tree is better than Charlie Brown's!!! :-D

    And yes, The Dark is Rising will be perfect for you again this year, I think. Dark and full of hope, too. *hugs* and thank you for your lovely Christmas post. I'll try to think of some favourite recipes to try that are English :-)

  25. Aw, I'm sorry you won't be able to go home for Christmas--I know how much that stinks. I haven't been home for Christmas in years. But your decorations look great, and it sounds like you and your partner will be having a lovely time together!

  26. In the end, there will be lots of things!

    This year, and for the first time, Xmas will come to me in Brussels. My brother and sister-in-law just moved here as well, so my mom will travel to us and it'll be in my kitchen where all the lovely food will be cooked :)

    *fingers crossed that it'll snow*

  27. I love the photos of your Christmas tree and decorations.

  28. wonderfully festive post ,all the best stu

  29. Love your wooden ornaments and the bird, especially. Happy holidays, Ana!

  30. People like us--rememberers--fondly remember the first Christmas they spend away from home. Whether it's miserable or lovely, the memory goes deep, and you base future Christmases on it or against it. It is the start of the way you celebrate as an adult.

    Have we talked about The Box of Delights by John Masefield? It's a lovely seasonal book, and I think you'd like it.

  31. Sounds like you have great plans for the holidays. Good for you! :)

    You should get your parents to mail you a few favorite ornaments to add to your tree. I took favorites with me when I moved out and put them up every year.

    By the way, I think we have the same ornament of the little wooden angel on the rocking horse. :)

  32. It sounds like you have taken all the right steps to start your own family traditions. stopping by from Virtual Advent tour. Have a very merry Christmas, Kelley at the road goes ever ever on

  33. Good for you for making new traditions. That's exactly the right approach. I watched my mother do it when we quit going to the grandparents at Christmas time due to a long drive in winter weather, so I feel like I had a good example.

    I second Clare's nomination of Love Actually and I also like White Christmas.

  34. I like your little Christmas tree, it looks lovely! Sound like you have a good plan for the holidays. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!

  35. You are wise, focusing on the positives. I'm sad this year, too, as this will be our first Christmas without both my sons close at hand. But such is life.

    Here's my Virtual Advent: Uff da! Norwegian Fattigmands! I hope you will stop by!


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