Wishing for a Different Christmas

By alison - December 20, 2006 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

Last year I made a big deal about having a quiet Christmas. It was just Andrew and I (and the furry family, of course). We decided not to give each other gifts, so there was no Christmas shopping madness. I cooked a huge dinner, but at my own pace (and with only a minor injury from a newly purchased food processor.)

When I wasn’t cooking I was curled up in front of the fire with a good book and a lap full of cats. It was peaceful, restful and cozy – everything the holidays should be.

So far, this year has been a bit different…

We brought home and trimmed our tree with little incident. It’s a much nicer tree than last year (which probably has something to do with buying it more than two days before Christmas…) and the house has that familiar Christmassy smell.

After only two years however, I already have too my Christmas ornaments to fit on the tree.

Last year, we started from scratch and I decided since we had no traditional ornaments, I would make our tree as unique as us. The reds and greens of a normal Christmas tree, gave way to orange, hot pink, lime green and teal.

I used to tease my Mother about her Christmas decoration fetish. Every December, a parade of boxes would emerge from the attic and after a weekend of decorating, our house would become a Christmas wonderland. Despite every surface being ‘Santa-fied’ she managed to acquire more decorations every year.

Although our taste in decorations is (extremely) different, I’ve already purchased a few more sparkly ornaments for the tree, a new table top tree – bright orange with disco ball decorations, and a new wreath for our front door (which is surprisingly traditional.) I’m starting to think that it’s a good thing our Belgian home has a big attic…

Andrew and I also decided to give each other some small gifts this year. We decided to spend a relaxing day, sauntering through Leuven; taking in the Christmas market, enjoying a bit of Glühwein, and carefully selecting the perfect gifts.

It didn’t go quite according to plan.

Although the rest of the week had been sunny, Saturday the rain poured down. Our casual sauntering through the market became a mad dash from tent to tent in an attempt to stay out of the downpour.

Eventually we got fed up with having wet feet and cold hands and did what all good North Americans do the week before Christmas – we went to the mall.

It was everything I hate about the holidays – crowds of desperate shoppers packed into stores like sardines, pushing and shoving for something to put under the tree; overexcited children screaming and running around on sugar-highs from too much Christmas candy; stressed-out store clerks snapping at everyone; tacky decorations and exhausted looking mall Santas – It was just like home.

Somehow though, it was comforting. Here I was, halfway around the world from my friends and family, doing exactly what they were doing – getting stressed about the holidays.

When we returned to the car, exhausted and frazzled, I looked at Andrew and proposed we leave the decorations in the attic and spend next Christmas on a beach.

Whichever side of the globe you are on; I wish you Happy (stress-free) Holidays and a very Merry New Year.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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