Thoughts and traditions from travel bloggers on driving home for Christmas
It is with anticipation and excitement that I dedicate my Christmas blog post to change and the magic it brings in our lives! For me, the best way to do that is to feature a few of the great friends we have made over the last year. When we started travel blogging a mere six months ago we expected it to be a lonely endeavor. Instead, we have found warmth, friendship, safety, and magic across the world, so our Christmas would not be complete without sharing it with fellow travel bloggers! We have asked some of them to tell us a little bit about what driving home for Christmas means to them and about their traditions.
But let me start first!
Anca, from Dream, Book, and Travel
It was my third sleepless night in a row, finals were just over, and I can remember hoarding up every single one of my belongings in suitcases and bags. I still had a couple of hours left until 4 A.M. so I carefully packed the presents in my best suitcase, and cried with anticipation imagining the joy they will bring to all my near and dear ones. I was 19; it was my first semester abroad at university; I was driving home for Christmas and I was not sure I wanted to come back.
Since then, over the last 15 years, I have come to look forward to the things I used to take for granted as a child and teenager. The warmth and safety of a place to call home no matter how far you decide to travel during the year; the caroling children that still go from door to door on Christmas Eve, despite the cold; the carefully planned holiday menus that you find in every Romanian home during this time; friends and family dropping by unannounced to share the good cheer, and yes, more food. I don’t pack all my stuff anymore, in fact, I have left behind so much clutter everywhere I have lived. What I do, however, is to always take a split second and enjoy the feeling that, at the end of a long drive, I am back and I might not leave again. Ever. And then I am off to plan my next adventure or endeavor.
Thus, I have come to slowly realize that what I do cherish the most around this time of the year is the drive itself. I love the Christmas atmosphere in Vienna, where we live. Luckily it starts early there when Christmas markets open mid-November, so we do get to enjoy it for a month or so. I also like to discover new places and their Advent traditions and, if possible, we always schedule a city weekend break before the holidays. I put together my Christmas reading stack carefully in advance – yes, the books I do carry, every time! – and then I drive home, tough as it might be at times.
That first drive home from Bremen in Germany to Arad in Romania took more than 30 hours. This is normal given that almost one-third of Romania’s working-age population lives abroad. It is a sad reality that we have the second highest emigration growth rate in the world after Syria but it is also heartwarming to see the majority of these people coming back for the holidays. The roads are hyper-crowded, border entry points and airports are overwhelmed, but in the last 20 years, this has become as much a Christmas tradition as the sponge cake (cozonac), the stuffed cabbage rolls (sarmale), and the pork sausages.
After 15 years of sharing the drive back home from Bremen, and then from Vienna, with student friends and fellow nationals working abroad, and never quite knowing how long it would take, I have come to realize that the force that prompts us all to do it is the fact that we believe in magic. For Christmas, we all drive to where the magic is. Luckily, for most Romanians, that still is home.
For me, as my family constantly grew over the past years to incorporate my husband and his relatives, and then the miracle that is our daughter, as well as Dream, Book, and Travel (yes, the blog is a part of our family) – things have, as of yet, not changed much. But they might as well from one year to the next and we might need to create new family traditions, which I am ok with as long as I am surrounded by family and friends. Because that’s where the magic is!
So it is with anticipation and excitement that I dedicate my Christmas blog post to change and the magic it brings in our lives! And for me there’s no better way to do that than to feature a few of the great friends we have made over the last year. When we started travel blogging a mere six months ago we expected it to be a lonely endeavor. Instead, we have found warmth, friendship, safety, and magic across the world so our Christmas would not be complete without sharing it with fellow travel bloggers! We have asked some of them to tell us a little bit about what driving home for Christmas means to them and about their traditions.
Chris and Monique, from McAdventureBlog
Growing up Christmas was always a huge celebration and I loved every second of it. We lived quite far away from my extended family so every year we would travel to my grandparents for the holidays. My mom’s parents were German so we’d celebrate German Christmas on the 24th and then go to my dad’s parents for English Christmas on the 25th. I have fond memories of delicious food, amazing German Christmas cookies and lots of family time.
As we grew up and started going our separate ways Christmas has become a lot smaller. My brother lives in the US, my sister in the UK and I live in South Korea for the moment so getting together is almost impossible. Monique and I try hard to keep things in the Christmas spirit with lots of decorations, Christmas movies and advent calendars (this year we have tea and coffee calendars!). Going home for Christmas may now only be in January or February so the day we celebrate with our families is often quite flexible.
Despite this, we will still have a fantastic cook-up (both Monique’s parents are amazing cooks and try outdo each other every year!) and try to have one day that we celebrate ‘Christmas’ even if it isn’t on the 25th of December. My parents hop around to visit their grandkids at Christmas but one year we might manage to all be in the same city for the festive season! If, like us, you can’t be with your family at Christmas, have a look at this post on ways to deal with a Christmas away from home.
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Lissa, from Roots, Wings, and Travel Things
Driving home for Christmas, to me, is really more about going back in time than to another location. My parents only live a mile away from us- so the drive is not far! But every Christmas Eve we gather at my parents’ house to continue the tradition of our Polish Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition my father passed on to us from his childhood. His grandparents had emigrated from Poland and lived at home with him when he was a child and they started this tradition back when my dad was young. Just before Christmas, we used to make pierogi with my grandma and grandpa- thousands of pierogi! Then we celebrate a traditional meatless Polish Christmas Eve dinner, eating all of our homemade pierogi plus mushroom soup. My grandparents have been gone for years now. My own sons never got to meet them. But we continue our Christmas Eve tradition. We don’t make as many pierogi now, but our sons help make them every year! And every Christmas Eve we drive home to celebrate with my family. It’s a short drive but we go back four generations every Christmas Eve and it is my favorite holiday tradition!
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Kelly, from Girl With The Passport
For me, home is technically New York City. But honestly, it’s never really felt much like home. That’s because my mom passed away six years ago and as a result, my family has moved farther and farther away from each other emotionally, albeit not physically. Therefore, the idea of “going home” for the holidays and spending Christmas in NYC with my family is quite honestly, not entirely pleasant. That’s why, each year, I travel around the world for Christmas and New Years, meeting new people, making new memories, and experiencing new holiday traditions.
From spending Christmas feeding reindeer in Sweden to attending mass at the Vatican, I have so many beautiful memories that I would never have if I had stayed home, So for me, that is the perfect way to spend the holidays. Sure, I can get lonely at times, but that’s when I force myself get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and create new traditions that are anything but traditional. So for me, the greatest gift that the holidays have given me is the idea that I don’t have to suffer through the holidays, forcing myself to be around a family that I’m not very close with and never will be.
Instead, I dare to be different and travel the world, creating a family of people that teach me repeatedly, that family isn’t just about the people that you’ re related to. To me, family is about the people in your life who make you laugh, embrace you when you cry, and remind you that no matter what, you’ll never ever be alone.
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Guta, from Yung’s World Tour
Coming home has a double meaning for me. I have my house, of course, but I have a house that I also call mine, which is where my family is, where my roots are. This one is in Brazil: tropical land, land of heat (both atmospheric and human), land of millions of contrasts but mine. It is always a big joy, the perspective of coming home. Expectation and anxiety turn into smiles and tears, hugs and kisses without end at the time of reunion. Fruit of a no size complicity that I hardly witnessed in another family. We should have more “Christmas” so there would be more times like these because the distance is huge but love is infinitely bigger!
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Rio, from The TwentySomething Traveler
For Christmas, my vagabond mother and I drive north to mid-California to see the family she left since moving away for college. She always felt like the black sheep of the family. Christmas gave us all an excuse for reconciliation and forgiveness of differences. Over the years, the pain lessened because they only got to see my mother and I a few times a year. We all learned to appreciate each other since our time was always limited. I was just happy to see my cousins that got taller and more grown up every year. As for my immigrant father, we don’t have the luxury of driving home for Christmas. His family is across seas back in the Philippines that he left out of necessity and in search of a better life. I have only been in the Philippines about 3 times for Christmas. It’s interesting to me that my mother chooses when she goes home, which is usually only during holidays, and that my father wishes he could be home but can’t. It is a bittersweet time for me as their child, one always split between two homes, two worlds. I travel today in a constant search for meaning, but home will always be wherever in the world my family is for Christmas.
Corina, from Packed Again
Already the title “driving home for Christmas” gives me a warm and safe feeling. During my earlier 14 years of globetrotting, the world I did had the chance to fly/drive home for Christmas a few times. Driving home for Christmas means so much of emotions, memories, and warmth all bundled up and ready to open at home in a safe and loving environment. The taste of the warm chocolate chip cookies and the thought of inhaling all the spices of the mulled wine but a smile on my face during the whole journey. The last few years we had always been at home in Switzerland over Christmas but working a lot over as this is peak season in the tourism industry. But luckily this has changed since our twins have arrived a little over 3 years ago. Christmas has again become an important and lovely family celebration. Funny how things can change so easily in life, depending on what is important for you.
Being an international family Swiss / English, we’re combining the two traditions as best we can. I grew up in the German part of Switzerland and we always celebrated Christmas Eve, and it was “Christchindli” who lay the presents under the tree. We had to hide in our bedrooms and wait until we heard the gentle bells signaling Christchindli had lain all the presents and left. The English tradition you for sure all know – with Santa coming down the chimney during the night of Christmas Eve. We’re implementing both to our kids, so if they have been nice they are able to have some presents in the evening and some in the morning. Christmas Eve is a low key celebration with family around, a nice dinner, some games and of course some presents. Although not many presents as we’re trying to make the kids understand that all the traveling they are doing with mummy and daddy are the best ever presents with memories they keep forever. The kids do not yet believe us very much. But it will come. And as of Christmas day, kind of the same atmosphere is kept as from the night before, with a lovely breakfast after opening Santa’s presents, followed normally by a day on the mountain either sledding or skiing depending what the weather brings.
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Mirela, from The Travel Bunny
When I read this… I think about Chris Rea’s song, first of all. And then I think about my family, gathered around the Christmas table because that’s how it always was. When I was a kid my family was really huge (and loud!), but as time passed, our numbers got lower (but we’re still very loud!). But even so, on the first or second day of Christmas, we still gather around the table from the afternoon till late at night, eating many, many courses of food, talking, and laughing together.
This year, however, things are changing. It’s going to be the first Christmas I spend with my fiancé. It’s the second since we’ve met, but last year he went back to France to be with his family, especially since it’s also his mother’s birthday on Christmas day. We’ll be spending Christmas with my family this year, and it will be his first year without seeing his mother for Christmas. And next year it will be my turn to be with his side of the family, somewhere in France. It will be incredibly weird to celebrate Christmas away from many members of my family (but I’m hoping some will travel). At the same time, I’m really happy that I’ll be part of a huge family again.
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Photo credits PINS by Rodion Kutsaev and Tyson Dudley on Unsplash