Katrina's Editorials

Christmas: You Can Take It With You

I'll never forget the Christmas that I spent in Fiji with Terry and the children. It was our first Christmas abroad and we didn't even think about how we would handle the whole tree and gift situation. Fortunately, the wonderful people at the Cousteau Resort had anticipated everything in advance—and that included a large Christmas tree, a full choir singing Christmas carols, and an individually wrapped stocking for each child staying at the hotel. There was even a Santa for those still old enough to believe. That year, the kids returned to school excited about where they had been, not just what they got. We've been going away for Christmas ever since.

With the holiday season nearly upon us, we are all thinking about how we're going to spend our Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. If you're anything like the people I know, you are probably wishing you could get away during your kids' winter break—if only the children weren't so attached to staying home for the holidays.

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times, "We'd love to do a family vacation, but the children don't want to miss Christmas."

What I learned in Fiji—and then in New Zealand, Tanzania, and again in China—is that wherever you go, Christmas follows. I don't remember the last time we spent December 25th at home, but my family has never missed a Christmas. I don't know about you, but for us, the date on the calendar isn't what matters as much as our family traditions. Even with all our globe-trotting, we still manage to do right by Christmas—we have a tree, we open presents, we sit down to a big family dinner. I even make my famous boiled plum pudding. So what if it's a week or two early?

In my experience, the benefits of going away with the children at this time of year far outweigh the drawbacks. As one of the longest breaks of the school year, winter vacation is a perfect opportunity to explore new cultures and see how the rest of the world lives while bonding as a family. Last year, for instance, Terry and I took the kids to Argentina. And boy, did we all learn something about how other cultures celebrate! In Buenos Aires, the popular way to spend New Year's Eve is at a gala dinner. All the best hotels in Recoleta host elegant events. While this may be true in the U.S. as well, in Buenos Aires, the children are encouraged to join in the festivities, attending the dinner and participating in the dancing. With all the generations coming together to count down to the New Year, the focus is really on the family.

This year, we'll be spending Christmas on the Red Sea in Egypt, then going to Amman, Jordan for the New Year. Having done this so many times before, we're prepared. Even though Egypt isn't a Christian country, we have arranged to have a Christmas tree and presents in our hotel room. And in Jordan, we'll ring in the New Year like the locals do - surrounded by our children.

These wonderful memories mean so much more than yet another gadget or gift certificate. The times we've shared together are the real gift.