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(Ditching) Home for the Holidays

Scott Vogel

What can we learn about our culture from the Christmas cards we receive? (Besides the fact that Santa has a strange propensity for Coke in vintage bottles, I mean.) For one thing, Christmas and precipitation are inextricably bound. Think of it: In the case of every other holiday, no one craves inclement weather. But for some reason it's not Christmas unless the weather outside is frightful, Jack Frost is nipping at your nose and you're dashing through the snow in a sleigh with the top down.

It didn't have to be this way. Truth is, this year, as in most, more than half of the country has less than a 25% chance of seeing the weather conditions staring back at them from every Christmas card, according to the National Climatic Weather Center.

Even Santa needs some time away from the clan during the holidays. (AP Photo/Branimir Kvartuc)

When it comes to a white Christmas, we can dream, but that's about it.

Nevertheless, everything from our cards to our carols to Currier and Ives is conspiring to make us feel like crap. So why not banish all these Christmas clichés from your mind? Better yet, why not travel to a place where snow is unthinkable, where scarves are traded for shorts and Christmas cheer comes with an umbrella in the glass?

"Because it won't feel like Christmas," I can hear you saying. Really? I wonder. Surely some of our well-traveled readership has tra-la-la-la-la'd in the tropics. So help a brother out. Is a winter wonderland -- or what typically passes for one in our area -- critical to the revelry? Assuming one has the cash (and the impetus of weather conditions like yesterday's), can the 25th be enjoyed as much in Florida or Hawaii or St. Thomas or Sydney? And does it still feel like Christmas? And does it matter?

By Scott Vogel |  December 6, 2007; 7:28 AM ET  | Category:  Scott Vogel
Previous: Christmas in NYC: Kitsch and Tell | Next: Dust Off the Skis and Snowboards!

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A few years back, I spent a year in Australia and Christmastime was the most bizarre experience. It's the middle of summer there, hotter than heck, and while all I really was in the mood for was a salad and some ice cream, the family I celebrated with prepared a "traditional" Christmas meal with roast chicken and lamb, mashed potatoes, roast pumpkin, etc. It's almost torture eating that heavy of a meal in 100 degree weather!

Posted by: macka | December 6, 2007 9:23 AM

As much as I hate cold weather and snow, I have to agree that it just wouldn't feel like Christmas if I didn't spend it at my grandparents' house in Northern Virginia. 26 of my 27 Christmas's have been spent there (including the one where I was 5 weeks old), so it's just tradition. When I was in 8th grade, we all went down to my grandparents' timeshare in Florida and it just wasn't the same. I loved walking on the beach on Christmas Day, but it still didn't "feel" like Christmas.

Posted by: Jenn in NJ (formerly SF) | December 6, 2007 9:45 AM

I admit, our personal experience this year made me mis-read your title.

See, my husband and I live in the Midwest (near Minneapolis-St. Paul). Our family is scattered up and down the east coast from Connecticut, to New York and DC. Road tripping in winter is just not an option - Lake Effect storms or the random Alberta Clipper usuall dog our every footstep.

So this year, we are "ditching" traveling "home" to family (since oddly enough, no one wants to come here in December - can't understand why since it was a *lovely* -3° F when we woke up this morning...*snort*).

My husband has traveled a lot more than usual this year (which is a inordinately huge amount of travel) - he even has to travel up until Christmas (a last minute affair).

With the continually reduced number of non-stop flights provided out of MSP, we figured we'd have to connect somewhere...and then spend a good chunk of our trip missing connections (thank god for World Club in those cases). Happy Holidays to us.

He just wasn't in the mood to spend yet more time on the road (with rental cars and hotels necessary since we can't all fit into either one of my family's houses), so we're staying home. And loving every frigid minute of it.

Because in our near decade as a couple, we have never woken up in our own bed, had morning coffee in our own mugs, opened presents under our own tree or dressed from our own closets on Christmas Day. We've always been somewhere else, and we decided we want to spend at least one Christmas in our own home.

I get what the above poster says - doing those things in a family home you've done them most of your life is good, too. But when the family expands and you're flying cross-country and sleeping in a hotel room after negotiating traffic and the packed airport, it feels less like Christmas and more like just another road trip.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 6, 2007 10:35 AM

Wow, Chasmosaur, you may not be escaping winter but no one could say you're not escaping the madness of the season. It reminds me of another consequence of the holiday's frightful weather: too many family members stuck indoors crammed into spaces that were never designed to hold so many. And we wonder why fights break out!

Posted by: Scott Vogel | December 6, 2007 10:45 AM

Thanks for understanding. My in-laws don't share your attitude...

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 6, 2007 11:24 AM

As the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, I have spent a lot of Christmases away from "home". (I put quotation marks around "home" because we have always believed that home is wherever we are living at the moment with our children.) With the exception of 5 years in Germany, all of our overseas Christmases have been in warm climates. (And for one of those German Christmases, we flew to a beach in Mexico to celebrate.) I'll admit that Christmas in Germany is pretty special with all the markets, specialty food, ornaments, traditions, etc., but give me sand and surf for Christmas anyday!

Posted by: FS Spouse | December 6, 2007 5:54 PM

When I was a child in South America, every Christmas was a sunny warm Christmas. One of my favorite childhood photos shows me on Christmas morning, wearing a bikini and trying out the new waterslide/kiddie pool combo Santa brought. My hometown is 2500 feet above sea level so it wasn't usually unbearably hot, and the special atmosphere of nighttime in the tropics made up to some extent for the lack of the snowy pine-tree ambience. Our Christmas menu was slightly modified from the traditional European one: we were more likely to have turkey or ham than a beef roast, rice rather than root vegetables, and a nice cool trifle or Charlotte Russe rather than flaming Christmas cakes. But it was still the same kind of festive atmosphere that we enjoy in the US.

Posted by: csdiego | December 7, 2007 12:33 PM

I lived in Florida for 16 years and this year I will once again be traveling there for Christmas. It's nice to turn down the AC to 50, light the fireplace, and open your gifts around the tree. Inside it feels like a Christmas card. Once you're down with the festivities, you return the AC to normal, put out the fire, and put on your swim trunks for a dip in the pool. It's fantastic!

Posted by: Angela | December 15, 2007 7:04 PM

This year is going to be a SPECIAL YEAR for my husband and I for Christmas. We are doing the Christmas Eve dinner as always with my family in Virginia. Then on Christmas day the dinner will be at our house, of course. Santa has to visit with the grandchildren. Everything should go smoothly. After, dinner it is just a matter of time before everyone starts to get visions of sugar plums in their head. Little does anyone know that mom and dad are already packed and ready to travel the next day! Joy TO The World! has played in my head all night for this day. We are finally getting away for a week to his youngest sister's new home in New London,PA. HOORAY! All his family will be there and we will celebrate Christmas again. "Merry Christmas Everyone and hope your ditching is as fun as mine will be."

Posted by: leothemangylion1 | December 16, 2007 3:57 PM

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