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For the first time ever, Travis and I didn’t travel for the Christmas holiday.  We didn’t spend our last days leading up to it by hectically battling crowds of frantic shoppers.  We didn’t spend countless hours browsing racks of cliché gift ideas, walking away with no idea what to get our family members, but ultimately trudging back just to throw something in the cart.  We didn’t spend hundreds on gas and use extra vacation days to drive across multiple states to be with family for a single day, only to have to turn around and leave the next day.  Instead, we spent our first Swiss Christmas together at home.


It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.  Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas – means a little bit more.  The Grinch


Over the years, Christmas has become increasingly exhausting, expensive, and stressful.  Of course, we do it to see family we often don’t see for the rest of the year, which is always worth it.  We both love our families and we missed them immensely this year.  But long have I wanted to just enjoy a single quiet Christmas at home.  This year was our year.

Christmas Eve morning greeted us with the most beautiful sunrise I’ve seen in Switzerland.  Why I was awake so early?  I’ve no idea.  I marveled at the vibrant swirls of pink and purple as they melded into pale shades of blue, then headed back to bed to sleep in until – whenever we felt like it.

Sunrise on the morning of our Swiss Christmas Eve

Sunrise tints the sky pink over the pre-Alps in the distance.

When neither of us could stand to remain in bed any longer without coffee, I left Travis to lounge a bit longer while I brewed a pot of joe, foamed milk for our lattes, and grated fresh Lindt chocolate on top.  With that done, my list of chores for the day was complete!

Travis built a cozy fire and we whiled away the morning, both of us in good spirits.  I’d been sick for a couple of weeks leading up to Christmas but having nearly finished up a round of antibiotics, was grateful to be finally feeling like my old self again.

We love our cozy fireplace and snap up every opportunity to relax in front of a crackling fire.

Everyone we know in the States opens Christmas gifts on the morning of the 25th and has Christmas dinner later that day. Here, the main celebration is on Christmas Eve.

Carlos & Nicole had already given us gifts the day before, but later in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, they came up to say Merry Christmas, bearing a pile of additional gifts for Touille, Tica, and even Brisco, who really should’ve gotten coal.

Since we hadn’t done any gift shopping at all, the critters now think Carlos & Nicole are the real Santa!

After visiting with them for a bit, they headed home to prepare for their own dinner plans with Nicole’s brother, who had generously invited us to come along.

Preferring to embrace our quiet evening at home, we politely declined.   We decided if it didn’t involve lounging in front of the fire, drinking coffee, watching Christmas movies, and enjoying a very non-traditional smoked salmon fettuccine dinner, it wasn’t happenin’.

When they left, we spent some time visiting with our other neighbor, Simone, outside while we enjoyed the sunshine and raked leaves to spread over the garden.  She made sure to give us our Christmas gifts before she, too, headed out for her own evening plans.

No matter how I try to escape the gift-giving madness, it managed to find us even in Switzerland!

Since once again, we had received gifts from friends and hadn’t bought gifts in return, I decided to make homemade brownies to share on Christmas.  Hardly a “gift,” I knew the gesture would still be appreciated.  Smudged with flour, I was sifting baking cocoa in front of the kitchen window when I looked out to see a mysterious hunched form hastily opening our front gate to leave.  I almost thought it looked like Dorota’s sister.

Was she sneaking out of our yard?

I hadn’t heard a knock.

I ran around to the front door, yanked it open, and voilà – it was her!  The little Christmas elf had deposited a basket filled with goodies on our doorstep, intending to leave us with a surprise after she’d snuck away.  She was rushing down the stairs to reach her getaway car where Dorota and her family were waiting.  Instead, we waved them inside to visit for a bit and have coffee before they had to continue on their way to meet up with family.

A mysterious elf delivers Swiss chocolate, champagne, homemade Polish specialties, and other goodies.

If you ask Trav, he’ll tell you how much I gripe about all the things wrong with the expectations and excess of gift-giving at Christmas, but I always love surprises!  The basket was filled with wine, chocolate, cookies, tangerines, homemade pierogi, and borscht. Dorota knew I’d been sick and said it would fix me right up.

One of the gifts I most anticipate every Christmas is a fresh basket of homemade jam from Trav’s mom.  Not only does it typically include my favorite huckleberry jam, but I appreciate the love, time, and effort it takes for her and my brother-in-law who often picks the huckleberries in the Idaho mountains.  Dorota’s basket reflected the same kind of love, time, and effort in a gift.  She said she remembered her first Christmas in Switzerland and didn’t want us to feel sad or alone.

Gah!  I’m pretty sure my heart grew three sizes when she said that!

With countless gestures from friends here and messages from friends and family back home, we couldn’t help but feel surrounded by love on this very merry Swiss Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Two Small Potatoes

I wasn’t sure she’d want me posting her name on here…she doesn’t even have Facebook. How’s that possible?! Next Christmas all together would be crazy fun!

ranbsl

I didn’t realize who was D until you mentioned pierogi ! Isn’t she amazing!? We will try to stay here next christmas and celebrate all together. <3

Sherri
Sherri

Carrie~ Every time I read your blog it gives me goose bumps, with your new life experiences, challenges and mind games…. You guys are so blessed. How wonderful would it be it we could all experience what you are. Life is so crazy and hectic during this time of year, we really need to slow down and reevaluate what Christmas is really about. This was our first Christmas day without our daughter, she was here Christmas Eve though. Oh it was so…different. We were, however, invited for Christmas dinner with friends we had amazing company and delicious food, it was… Read more »

Two Small Potatoes

Thanks, Sherri! I’m happy you were able to see your daughter on Christmas and that you enjoyed the holiday with loved ones. That’s what it should be all about! Happy New Year to you too…may 2015 bring you even greater joy than 2014. And I miss you too!

cvanryswyk

Lovely! I feel pretty much the same way as you do about the Christmas madness, and I was thrilled to side-step it this year. (I won’t tell anyone how late the sun rises here so you can get credit for your early rising….) And I hope you feel better!

Two Small Potatoes

I’m glad you also enjoyed the holiday sans madness, C…you and I will both be back to that soon enough. I’m feeling much better! (And thank you for keeping the sunrise “our little secret”!) 😉