Last year was the first 'real' Christmas I had had in 9 years.
I left New Zealand mid-2003 and experienced my very first northern hemisphere non-Christmas in Istanbul that year. Living in a predominately Muslim country meant that life didn't stop for Christmas. The weather was rubbish. It was winter.
That year I was given the day off to celebrate Christmas because I was considered a 'christian'. And my Turkish boss took me home to her family that evening, generously celebrating Christmas for me and with me. The next year I was teaching English conversation class at the university on the day, then raced off to English friends to experience my first-ever English Christmas (in Turkey).
Then came Belgium and the next few years were spent attempting to get used to the whole Christmas-in-winter thing. But the traditions here have simply moved Christmas so far from my New Zealand origins that I don't experience Christmas as Christmas. It's just this strange holiday that people mess about with over December, beginning on the 6th - that day when Sinterklas comes, leaving gifts for the children who then, more often than not, have to head off to school after present-opening.
This time last year though, I was home in New Zealand and it was magnificent. With a little bit of terrible thrown in too. I was trying to do that final organising of a lifetime's worth of possessions. I needed them to fit into just a few boxes so I could store them before shipping them over to Belgium. I think I arrived at 4 medium-sized plastic containers ... giving the rest of my stuff away or throwing it into the rubbish.
Christmas Day, 2012, in New Zealand was so familiar and delicious however throwing out most of my previous life and trying to pack two 21kg suitcases to fly in the morning ... it was difficult despite being the best Christmas day I had had in a long time.
This year, I seem to have misplaced Christmas. I haven't bought any presents (except for that gift organised for Miss 9, shared between 4 of us. A gift she will love because it is simply marvelous). Nor have I sent any cards. I haven't even managed to organise Christmas Day but perhaps that's because it's not really Christmas Day to me anymore. There is none of the excitement of summer, of cherries and strawberries, of finding a box of new potatoes ... it's just so different.
It will come together on the day, we have children around and I'll make sure it's marvelous for them but I am suspecting that Christmas just is that thing I don't get excited about anymore.
Let's see how it goes. Meanwhile ... my people, last Christmas in the land Downunder.