Six strangers are sitting in the same room. They could be the most bizarre compilation of human beings. There is no apparent reason why they should be together. But there is one thing they have in common. They all share the burden, or the blessing, of spending Christmas far away from home. I was among them. We were all torn apart from our usual way of doing things, from our so ancient customs and traditions at this time of year.
We adapted traditions to your own needs, tailoring new ones. It was an opportunity to bring closer everything that would’ve been present in your Christmas day at home, wherever home is. And at the same time escaping everything you wanted to escape. At least I personally enjoyed escaping the screaming; it’s not very fun to have 5 people screaming at you in a very small room, it ends up giving you a huge headache. And so, a combustion of outdated and irrational traditions (like they all are) melted with the liberty of embracing everything else you would’ve wanted.
The combination was simply outstanding. We all shared the freedom of being together, embracing the rare occasion of developing traditions of your own. Traditions that are crafted to your very own taste and needs. We could do everything our grandmas wouldn’t let us, somehow not forgetting everything our grandmas would’ve done had we been home. When feeling out of place, we assemble. We somehow seek comfort in not being the only one. We assemble in an attempt to feel understood, to share, to find the things we have in common, regardless how different we all are.
I remember it was already the 22nd of December. To me, it didn’t feel close to Christmas at all. My Christmas has a view on a beach, my beach. My Christmas has a very close group of people, a very specific view. I could see neither of them, so it wasn’t Christmas. I was 2000 km away from the table that had always been the Christmas table. I was not walking by the seaside on a damp stormy and cold winter evening. It almost made no sense. Instead, I was walking through the streets of Glasgow. I don’t even live in Glasgow, I just happened to be here. How was I supposed to feel it was Christmas?
Certain things are engraved in our brains to the point of not acknowledging there is something outside that thought. Almost as if we were reluctant to believe there is more beyond what we see as normal. We find comfort in routines that have always been the same. Traditions are difficult to change, that’s why they are traditions. They have always been there. I wasn’t going to sit in my Christmas table. I was going to sit in a different chair. I was going to have dinner at a different time. -20.00 is very early for a Christmas dinner if you ask me-. I was in a different country.
As I entered our hosts’ flat, every sign of confusion or homesickness blew away. Almost as if the Christmas spirit had slapped me as I walked inside the door and saw everything was different. It couldn’t be any more different than how I imagined it. Almost magical. I barely knew any of them other than my girlfriend, who was the reason I ended up there in the first place.
The atmosphere was magical. The host couple almost diffused excitement as they quickly run from the kitchen to the dining room. One of them was wearing a spectacular dress from Free the People. It almost looked like the stripes and the shape made her float rather than walk. The amount of food was humongous. Even my grandma would’ve said it was too much -and that’s a lot to say-. I sat in one of the most carefully crafted dinner settings I’ve ever seen. A bright red simple tablecloth stole the attention from the rest of the mise en place. The shouting tablecloth was silenced by the matching simple grey plates. And the carefully positioned wineglasses amplified the printed menus for the night. I guess celebrating Christmas with a designer has its advantages.
The menu was a fusion of Italian traditions with a pinch of Spain and a lot of experimentation. The food was more than outstanding, and never-ending, which is what Christmas should look like. Thankfully, we were not short in wine either. The result was one of the most special Christmas I will ever remember. The night ended in a home-made monopoly. The board that comes with the mini version is too tiny, so we made our own. Our own monopoly and our own Christmas. Regardless where I spend Christmas from now own, 2020’s Christmas will always have a special place in my heart. It will always be the first Christmas I spent far away from home, and I couldn’t have felt more at home.