Last year I spent Christmas away from home for the first time. It was a strange thought to wrap my head around. I was slightly nervous. I mean, Christmas isn’t Christmas without family, right?
What Is Christmas For You?
The traditions you have around Christmas define what it means for you. My childhood Christmas memories involve bustling mornings, driving around to visit family – and, of course, collecting gifts along the way! Lunch was the main event and was always a big family affair. As I grew older the details changed – I had my own car and could choose who I visited – but it was still always about family. Last year I had to spend Christmas in the UK. I was not with family. I did not have a big Christmas lunch – in fact I don’t think I had lunch – and I did not receive any gifts on Christmas morning. Yet, it is one of my best Christmas memories!
Make It An Adventure
I had just completed my MBA in England and discovered I was on the shortlist for the AMBA Student Of The Year award. This was amazing news, but it meant that going home to South Africa for Christmas would no longer be financially viable as I had to be in London for the awards ceremony in February. I had never been to Edinburgh, but I had heard that it was one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It seemed like a good place to spend Christmas so I roped in a friend who was also staying in the UK for the holidays and we headed off on a Christmas adventure.
Enjoy The Change
Christmas day began in a luxurious hotel bed. There was no pressure to rush out of the crisp white linen, except for making it down to breakfast on time. I enjoyed a full spread and ended it off with waffles! I felt so relaxed that I decided a post-breakfast lie-down was in order before I began the day. Having the freedom to make this choice felt good. Around lunchtime, instead of sitting down to a feast with family, we set out to explore the city. Many of Scotland’s top attractions, including most museums, galleries and several events are free to enter. This was great for newly-graduated students travelling on a budget.
Exploring Edinburgh on Christmas day was a treat. Yes, many shops and businesses were closed; but this provided an opportunity to see this gem of a city through an even more beautiful lens. We spent the day discovering hidden spots, secluded passageways and amazing views. A climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat provided panoramic vistas of the city and, even on Christmas day, proved a popular pastime among locals and visitors alike. Our day ended with an activity of my choosing – an equally iconic Scottish treat: whisky tasting in a festively decorated Radisson Blu hotel. It was the perfect end to a special day.
Home Is A Feeling
Christmas 2019 began with waffles and ended with whisky. Like no other Christmas before, it was not spent with family. For the first time, there was no sunshine and poolside chilling. There were no presents and there was no elaborate Christmas lunch. Yet, it will always be one of my most memorable Christmases.
It was the year I learnt that home is not a place; it is a feeling.
Family is not finite; it is a choosing.
As we approach Christmas time I’d like to leave you with an encouraging reminder that throughout this wonderful journey called life, we are presented with moments in which we can choose. Opportunities that allow us to create new memories, build new families and appreciate non-traditional experiences as gifts.
Sometimes, no matter how different the circumstances, all we need to do is choose the lens through which we see life.