Expat Ivana from Bosnia tells us how she experienced her first Christmas without snow in Puerto Rico.
I always loved Christmas time. Despite the ridiculous amounts of gifts being purchased and long lines in the stores, the stressed faces running around as if they were under a strict deadline to shop shop shop till they dropped, it all didn’t seem to bother me that much.
Personally I was more of a relaxed Christmas spirit: wandering down snow-filled streets which smelt of firewood and freshly baked cookies, candles lit in the windows and a general peaceful quietness all around. I loved taking long walks in the woods near our home with my whole family just listening to the sound of winter and then coming home to a warm fireplace and a hot cup of tea.
Through my recent job transfer to a beach resort in Puerto Rico, I was completely unaware that Christmas was coming until I began receiving care packages from my family in Bosnia. It was very strange to be honest because I had always loved Christmas even as an adult. It was the time for family and friends, getting together with relatives one hasn’t seen in a while and eating all my favorite traditional foods – en masse!
Somehow I overlooked the fact that it was soon to be Christmas, in part due to my incredibly busy daily schedule what with the new job and all, yet also in part due to the fact that I went swimming in the ocean after work every day and was still wearing flip flops to work – in December! Although I should mention that Puerto Ricans quite enjoy their Christmas holidays and there were lights strung up all across town, our hotel was festively decorated, yet the feeling of Christmas didn’t quite transcend.
I have a friend, who once spent Christmas in Miami and was a little skeptical of the Christmas tree lights on palm trees, the fake snow on the ground and the plastic Santa Clauses climbing roofs that had no chimneys! Now it was my turn!
I was fortunate to have the day off on Christmas Eve so I decided to do what I always did in Sarajevo on Christmas: take a walk. Except where I usually bundled up and wore thick snow boots, I now walked along in flip flops in the sand! For dinner I was invited to a friend’s house where we decided to have an “anti-Christmas” dinner, as she was also used to deep winter and not balmy sea breeze at Christmas.
We went shopping at the market the day before and bought lots of exotic fruits and vegetables and made a delicious buffet of fruit salads, vegetable lasagna and various salads, which we then took to the beach and made a picnic of. After dinner, we went swimming and sat outside in the sand and watched the stars while drinking a refreshing cold cocktail. It was fun because it took my mind away from missing my family for this special holiday, and because it was different and, I felt, more fitting to this beautiful country!
When my family called the next day and I told them about my Christmas Eve, they were slightly surprised. When I told them how much fun I had, and that getting into the ‘real’ Christmas spirit was next to impossible for me here, they agreed that I had made the best of the situation.
Despite however having enjoyed my warm sunny anti-Christmas Day and Eve, I do miss sitting down at a table with my loud family, eating lots of hot steamy delicious food, and then warming up by the fireplace… I suppose wherever I may end up in the future, I will always try to make it home for Christmas!
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.