After a long, chilly December day, you make your way home. On your way to your door, you take a peek inside the mailbox. A small envelope with your name, hand-written, makes your day so much warmer as you bustle inside and shed your layers to open the mail. The envelope reveals a colourful Christmas card and a reminder of a loved one somewhere in the world*.
I am a big proponent of the Christmas card, as a recipient and a sender. In general, we give too much ‘stuff’ during the holidays. I know that pressure to give the people you love and appreciate …something to let them know that you care about them at Christmas time. This well-intentioned thought often leads to gifts that aren’t really needed and aren’t really right for that person. They sit awkwardly in the place of the words and emotions it was meant to convey. More often than not, a heartfelt card can capture and share that thought better than any poorly chosen gift. During the holidays, keep it simple, and simply send your love.
I never thought I’d say “I’m going to Prague for Christmas” but that’s what happened this year. Just a seven hour train ride from Keleti Pályaudvar to Hlavni Nadrazi and we arrived in the beautiful capital of the Czech Republic. This was the second time that I have been outside of Canada for December 25th. I am lucky as I most often spend Christmas in Cape Breton with my family or, in recent years, in cozy Manitoba with the Robinsons. Being abroad at a time when most people’s hearts are at home is strange, challenging but full of new opportunities.
Prague has been at the top of my ‘To Visit’ list for years. I’ve heard magical descriptions of the city’s impressive and well-kept architecture hugging the Vltava River, it’s inexpensive and delightful food and drink and rich cultural scene. Prague was as promised. In December, the city was vibrant with Christmas markets and the bustle of happy faces with mulled wine and chimney cakes. We explored and celebrated and discovered Christmas abroad. Here are some reflections on what made this expat holiday a happy one.
The Christmas markets are jostling, the streets are brightly lit and the smell of mulled wine seems to be temptingly everywhere here in Budapest. The holiday season is at that lovely point where everyone is feeling festive but before the last-minute errands and tenuous travel has started. In the midst of all the holiday cheer, I’ve done some of my holiday shopping. Though I generally dislike shopping, which helps in living a simple lifestyle, the holidays provides a particular combination of pleasant and painstaking consumer experiences. To make the season a littler simpler, here are my six tips on keeping holiday shopping under wraps (pun intended):
My little sister is the best gift giver. Each Christmas, she selects gifts for our family that are spot-on. I try to emulate her style and it comes down to being thoughtful and observant. She notices interests, needs and desires throughout the year and picks a gift that touches on these aspects. She never purchases something for the sake of filling a gift bag; her gifts are always well thought-out and valued by the recipient. In the hustle of the season, I can often get caught up with gift-giving and thinking it’s better to just give something. However, a gift given without thought isn not a great gift and will often just become that ‘stuff’ no one needs. Make your list and check it twice to be sure it’s thoughtful like Carrie’s.