The day after I graduated from Dalhousie University I met my cousin, Dana, in England to spend the summer backpacking around Europe.
She went home in August to finish her degree. I decided to stay.
That December I found myself snowboarding and working as a “Zimmermachin” (chambermaid) in St. Anton, Austria.
My family at that time consisted of fellow “ski bums” from around the globe and they shared a Christmas with me that I will never forget. (Check out a few of our pics on Instagram)
Every day in December that year seemed like a global festival!
We celebrated everyone’s traditions from the sheer terror of the Austrian Krampus – yup, it’s a real thing! To the sweetness of the Swedish Lucia.
In Austria, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th. It is religious and family oriented. Small thoughtful presents were exchanged and there was not a red and white-clad Santa to be found!
My hausfrau invited me to accompany her to Christmas Eve mass. Afterward, we gathered in her parlour where she lit the candles on the tree and we sang carols with the houseguests.
Afterward, the younger generation in the village met in the woods for a bonfire and fellowship lasting into the wee hours of Christmas morning.
My mother had sent me a Christmas care package of all of my favourite holiday goodies. I handed Quality Street chocolate and Turtles around the fire accompanied by stories of their significance.
We all had to work on Christmas Day and as I was opening the window to air out a duvet my fellow misplaced Canadians were standing in the street below.
“Barky,- their pet name for me, we are taking a 2-4 of beer up the gondola at 2:00 to celebrate Christmas Canadian style – meet us there”
My Christmas dinner that year consisted of speck, semmels, and Weizenbier.
My Christmas outfit was a ski suit.
My Christmas family was a global one.
Even though I was thousands of miles away from my family and traditions, that Christmas is one that is etched in my memory for life.
Merry Christmas, may your holidays be filled with joy, laughter, and light, and may your new year be filled with peace and understanding.
PS Like me, many of you may have an empty seat at the Christmas table this year for whatever reason. May this season bring you comfort and heal your heart.