The ghosts of my Christmases past
Growing up in Germany, Christmas meant mulled wine, dark evenings and lots of Christmas music. It also involved the expectation of snow but, 90 % of the time, not actually getting any. But my most memorable Christmases happened abroad when the chance for snow was zero or when everything went utterly wrong. So let me dig up the ghosts of my Christmases past.
Berry picking and dinner on the floor – Christmas in New Zealand
At first it felt strange. New Zealand celebrates Christmas in summer. So none of the traditions I grew up with (Christmas markets, snow, candles, warm fires), made any sense at all. But my lovely family introduced me to all the Kiwi traditions that come with a summer Christmas: Christmas cards with Santa’s in shorts or Kiwis (the bird that is) on them, road trips to the beach, Picnics, berry picking, outdoor Christmas concerts, Christmas cake and Pohutakawa trees.
I loved getting to experience all of these things with my Kiwi family because they included me in all of their family Christmas traditions, including a visit to the largest bookstore in Auckland (which has sadly closed down now). In the end, I didn’t miss anything about a German Christmas or was particularly homesick because the experience was so different, that it wasn’t comparable to anything I had known before.
Snow, chaos and a long journey home – Christmas in England
When you think about a Christmas in England, you probably don’t think about snow. Well my second memory of my Christmases past revolves around exactly that: snow and so much of it.
In 2010, I was studying in Canterbury, south-west of London, and like all my friends, I wanted to go home for Christmas which proved much more difficult than we had anticipated. We learned at the beginning of December that the British way to deal with snow was to shut everything down and to wait for the snow to melt. Unfortunately, that is exactly what they did to all their airports from the 18. December to just after Christmas.
On the 20. December I arrived painfully early at Heathrow Airport, thinking that my flight to Berlin hasn’t been cancelled yet. But minutes after I arrived, they cancelled my flight, along with all other short-distance flights that day. “Great,” I thought… But luckily for me, I almost immediately met a German girl who also had to go to Berlin. She also had a place to stay in London and so we got ourselves on a train and brainstormed a way to get off the island. Flights were no option. Trains were all booked up and London’s King’s Cross Station resembled a war zone. After much googling we found a bus to Amsterdam that would leave the next day and a train that would take us to Berlin.
More than 24 hours later, we found ourselves at Victoria Bus Station, waiting for our bus. The bus was hours delayed and by the time we got to go on, our feet were frozen solid, we had eaten all our snacks and we desperately wanted to have a shower. But, the bus was warm and for the moment we were moving towards the ferry that would take us off this chaotic island.
Once we got off the ferry and were getting close to Amsterdam, we realized, that there was no way for us to catch our train to Berlin. But luckily, we got a train that took us to Hanover where I just managed to catch the last train to Berlin. My ticket, however, wasn’t viable for this specific train. Completely panicked, I waited for the conductor. But once again, I was in luck. He said he knew how chaotic everything was due to the snow and he didn’t make me pay for a different ticket. After another, only 30 minute, train journey to my hometown, it was the 23. December at 1 am and I was finally home.
What funny, chaotic, sun-burned or frozen memories do you have of Christmases past? Did a journey home for Christmas ever go seriously wrong? Tell me about them in the comments.