Prior to moving overseas, I was what many people would label a Christmas “Grinch in Training”. I mean, sure, I enjoyed spending time with friends and family, the gut-ballooning smorgasbord of food (especially the COOKIES…nomnomnomnom), and the exchange of gifts but I was genuinely mystified by people who spent hours of their time decking out their houses with garland, lights, ornaments, nutcrackers and whatever else people use to decorate their houses with. I just couldn’t understand how the time, money and the stress of it all was worthwhile.
Then we moved to Bangladesh.
South Asia may seem like an odd place to kindle a fiery love of Christmas. Bangladesh is a Muslim nation and most people there view it as a religious holiday and avoid celebrating it like the plague. We weren’t even allowed to officially call our two-week holiday “Christmas Break” in our workplace. As we travelled through Sri Lanka for two weeks, we attempted to ignore the fact that it was Christmas by busying ourselves and trying to forget all that we were missing back home. We even drove for six hours on Christmas Day in a misguided effort to soften the ache of our first Christmas away from our home and family. To cap it all off, we received word that Sherpa, our beloved cat in Bangladesh, died that morning. All in all, it was pretty miserable as far as Christmases go.
BUT, before you start wailing in pity for our awful Christmas, all is not doom and gloom! When it came to Christmas, I didn’t really realize what I had until it was gone. As a result of those lonely weeks in Asia, I realized how much I actually love the Christmas spirit, impractical junk and all. Now, decorating trees, untangling lights and unpacking nutcrackers holds a new appeal…and this has transferred to my souvenir tastes as we travel.
Which brings me back to Europe.
Anyhow…the annual Christmas markets in Germany are world-famous and, luckily for me, just because I visited during summertime didn’t translate into missed opportunities to participate in a bit of holiday fun! And by “holiday fun”, of course, I mean spending far too much money on stuff I probably don’t need but desperately crave.
I managed to explore major Christmas stores in Munich, Cologne, Strasbourg, Bremen and Heidelberg, mostly thanks to my awesome sister-in-law April, who is probably even more passionate about Christmas ornaments than I am.
There is a commonly used phrase that compares overly excited individuals to a child in a candy shop. I propose a new idiom: from now on, we should compare those who are impressed and excited by what they see to “Jon in a Christmas store.” I think this newly coined idiom is much more accurate than the aforementioned phrase. I freely confess that I lost all financial control…well, I could actually say that I exercised great fiscal wisdom by not procuring EVERYTHING in sight for my Christmas collection…I only bought everything I liked! When all was said and done, the damage was more than my monthly grocery bill in South America…around 250 US dollars!
Although my wallet feels a bit lighter, I rest content in the knowledge that I will have myriads of new ornaments hanging from our tree this coming Christmas season.