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 generic 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 Christmas in Switzerland together at home.
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.
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.
Christmas Eve morning greeted us with the most beautiful sunrise I’ve seen in Switzerland.
Why was I 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!
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.
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 and Nicole had surprised us with 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 too surprised us with Christmas gifts before heading 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 get-away 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.
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 showed 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 Christmas in Switzerland. Hopefully it will be the first of many.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Wondering how we celebrated other holidays in Switzerland as expats?