Monday, November 14, 2011

A Blue Christmas

Anyone reading last year's posts from around this time would know I'm a Christmas-a-holic (yes, it's a word!). I love all of it, and now that we have our own little growing family, it's become all the more special. My husband was a bit of a Scrooge when we met, never really keen to make a fuss, but it didn't take long for me to wear him down infect him with the Christmas spirit. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to the rituals of the season - pudding Sunday a month before, a fresh tree going up no earlier than the 1st of December, nothing but Christmas carols in the week leading to the day etc, etc. I've adapted a few old traditions and adopted a few new ones since I left home, but the one thing I found really hard to embrace was Christmas in Hong Kong.

Our first year here, we hadn't been here that long when Christmas came around, so spending it here made sense. We had good friends staying with us, and copious quantities of alcohol, but it just wasn't the same. We headed back home in 2008 for an Aussie Christmas, but in 2009 we had a 3 week old baby and another HK festive season was our only option. Last year we spent most of December in Australia but with D having to work Boxing Day we decided to fly back to Hong Kong on the 22nd for Christmas here once again. With an Aussie Christmas so tantalisingly close last year, it was very hard to get on that plane, but being in our own home just the 3 of us, around the tree, doing our own thing, it strangely felt right. In previous years I complained about being "stuck" in Hong Kong, and tried to make the best of what I felt was a bad situation by celebrating the fact that it was cold, baking every hot Christmas treat I could find a recipe for. The mulled wine and mince pies worked their magic and this year, now that I have my Aussie Christmas locked in (at the beach! With my family!) I've realised what I'm going to miss.

Every year that we've had Christmas in Hong Kong we've ordered a tree from our local supermarket. The year J was born it arrived the last weekend in November so it was half dead by the time Christmas arrived, but that has now become a treasured part of our family Christmas - guessing how early the tree will arrive and taking bets on whether or not it will go the distance! I mentioned to D last week that I saw the order forms for the tree when I was shopping, and he said "we'll have to get one." I was shocked but proud that my once anti-Christmas man of the house had made such a drastic turnaround that he was willing, insisting, that we have a tree, all dolled up, despite the fact that no one will be here in December but our helper and the dog.

The reason for his need for a tree, and for my melancholy, is that we're not entirely sure the house will be empty at Christmas... D and I, in our 8 years together, have never spent a Christmas apart. There have been years when he's worked Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, but never Christmas Day. This year he's been told he has 0% chance of getting the day off, but we find out for sure tomorrow night when the December roster comes out. Knowing that we'd likely be apart, I made plans this year, booking a holiday house on the south coast of NSW so that, if D should end up somewhere other than home, J and I would at least be able to celebrate with family, in a place that makes me very happy. We're crossing our fingers and toes that D will be able to join us, but it's highly unlikely, and the thought of a Christmas without him makes me very sad. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that we will be spending Christmas in Australia, and I can't wait for J to spend that time with "Nan and Pop", who he just adores, but something will be missing. Wandering around the shops yesterday looking at all the decorations that are out already, I was almost in tears as I imagined my husband sitting up at home by himself in front of the tree, eating cereal for Christmas lunch before heading off to Taipei or Colombo or somewhere else that isn't very Christmassy at all.

It could be worse, I know. There are families who are separated for long periods, and for more serious reasons. Dads miss birthdays and holidays all over the world, all the time. Given the nature of his job we're really lucky that D hasn't missed more, but this is the first time my little boy's dad will miss Christmas with his family, and that's breaking my heart. It took me a long time living in Hong Kong and fighting it to realise the true meaning of "home is where the heart is." I think this year I've learned that the spirit of Christmas lives there too...

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