Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Christmas Time is upon Us Once More

When I grew up in Belgium, New Year’s Day was more important than Christmas. Yes, we had a live Christmas tree with colorful balls and twinkling lights in the living room, but the presents underneath would be distributed on the first day of the new year. On Christmas Eve, my brother and I would have a quiet dinner at home with my parents. Sometimes, my dear oma would join us. My dad retrieved the “gourmet set” from the cellar and my mom picked up trays of bite-sized, raw meat and vegetables (and not to forget, pancake dough) at the butcher. For hours, we would each cook our own dinner in tiny pans and on top of the “communal” electric grill plate in the middle of the table. This food experience was called “gourmetten”. We all loved it and finished the meal off with mini-crepes. Then, we would play board games until bedtime.

I have always seen Christmas Day as my one and only true day off in the year. As a kid, teenager and tween, nothing was ever planned on December 25th. I would play games, read books or watch movies with family or boyfriends. Always inside, ideally with a wood fire burning. Sometimes, there were small gifts involved. Last year, I wrote a post about Christmas for my “Then and Now” series. You can check it out here. The tropical photos bring back a lot of fun memories! Being digital nomads means that Mark and I have spent Christmas all over the world and never know how the next one will look like. Rarely have we spent the day with family, the last decade and a half.

As a child, New Year’s Eve was generally celebrated in the house of my paternal grandparents, while as an adult, I would join friends for a party here or there. That was, until I left my home country on an infinite journey. From then on, the holidays would be shared with whomever was around or we would participate in whichever activity was organized near us.

The big day, until I left Belgium in the summer of 2003, was undoubtedly New Year’s Day. In the eighties, I would read my New Year’s letters (created at school and containing a poem with resolutions and loving words) to my parents, godfather and godmother and receive gifts (or later, money) in return. Those were the good days. Actually, that tradition is still in place – electronically. 😊

This year, our Christmas habits have been the same (no gifts, no crazy store visits, no stress, no commitments), but our plans have been up in the air even more than other years. We have gone from wanting to host something here (the place we are pet sitting in San Diego), to joining friends in Palm Desert, to spending the weekend in our camper at Joshua Tree National Park to flying back to the East Coast to be with family there. Nothing panned out, so we still have no idea what we will do, but amazing food will surely be part of it. As for New Year’s weekend, we might still head into the desert. Time will tell, or better… “We’ll see what happens!” – our motto for as long as I remember.

Thank you all for reading, visiting, and commenting this year, and…

Happy Holidaze!!!

50 Comments

  1. Thanks, Liesbet, for sharing your holiday traditions in Belgium and how your holidays have evolved over the years. Our Christmas habits are similar to yours (no crazy store visits, no frenzied shopping, no stress, no commitments). We treasure our blank December calendar very much, just time at home within my nuclear family, and one get-together with my extended family on Dec. 26. Happy Holidaze to you and Mark!!! Make the present a great present wherever you are.

    • Hi Natalie! Once again, I seem to think that we have quite a bit in common. 🙂 I love your last statement and might steal it for future reference! Enjoy your precious time with your family.

  2. Happy Holidaze indeed! I hope you and Mark have a restful day off. We are glad to be in the sunshine and glad that my family (even as children) have always celebrated the gift of no gifts, but plenty of wine!

    • I’m starting to think that Florida might have to be on the agenda for next winter, Lucy. I miss wearing shorts and t-shirts. 🙂 Enjoy your holidays, with lots of wine. That part, we will make sure to have as well!!! A nice Californian Chardonnay is waiting in the fridge already.

  3. Hi Liesbet! I sure wish you had a photo of some of your Christmas Eve experiences when you were growing up. I find it fascinating that you had a tradition of cooking small bits of food (gourmetten) and how that would look. I guess I’ll just have to use my imagination. And although you can’t make Christmas day Eve and Day here in the desert, we are hoping you can join us for New Year’s! I doubt we will do like your family and give you money 😉 But good food, company and beverages are sure to be a part of it. And you can read us letters too if you want 🙂 I think that is actually a tradition that could be good for us all no matter what we have planned! Have a Merry Christmas whatever you do! ~Kathy

    • There might be some photos floating around at my parents’ place, or more likely slides, of my earlier Christmases. Sometimes, I wish I could take a photo of a photo of some of these experiences, but all my photos from before 2005 (from before having a digital camera) are in Belgium…

      Good food, beverages and especially company are the best gifts ever!! 🙂 Hopefully, it will work out to meet you both soon again. Speaking of gifts, I might have a small one for you for Christmas, or maybe for New Year’s. We will see…

  4. Happy Holidaze Liesbet and Mark and big hugs for Frida and Elvis too! ☺🎄🎆💖 xxx

  5. Although I’m happy to be spending Christmas with my brother up in Northern California, I also wish I could be in San Diego too. Until I figure out how to clone myself, I have to choose just one place to be. Depending on the weather, Christmas morning might be a great time to take a stroll around La Jolla Shores or Coronado… not too many people so a more casual atmosphere. Whatever you decide to do, I know you and Mark will have fun and enjoy being together.

    • It looks like you will be able to be here for the New Year celebrations… Just pretend it’s still Christmas. 🙂 Thanks for the Christmas morning tip, Janis. We will want to go out and about that day, I think, after an evening of lights in the neighborhood. And those are the two places we definitely want to return to.

  6. Happy holidays Liesbet and Mark, we have a few goodies (a few luxury food items) for a picnic. Don’t know where, somewhere, and we too will see what happens 😁

    • I think we will walk to the store tomorrow and buy some “spoily” foods as well for Monday, Suz, not to be mixed up with “spoiled” foods. 🙂 Mark wanted to buy a nice stereo for our camper, so we have decided that it will be our shared “Christmas gift”. Of course, it was immediately unpacked upon arrival and has been installed and played with since two weeks. 🙂

  7. Happy holidaze, Liesbet! We’ll see what happens… What a great motto to live by. Hope 2018 brings you more adventures on your journey xxx

    • Thank you, Al. to be totally honest, sometimes it would be nice to have some idea of what lays ahead of us… 🙂 Wishing you a lot of inspiration and continued humor in 2018!

  8. I enjoyed reading about your holiday traditions, Liesbet. Winter in San Diego sounds like the perfect Christmas gift to me! Happy Holidaze!

  9. I had no idea about the tradition of New Year’s Day celebrations in Belgium. I quite like that way of doing things.Wishing you both much happiness wherever your path leads. Wonderful to chat through the year.

    • Thanks, Sue. Not sure whether every Belgian Family has these traditions.

      We hope you and Dave have a fantastic time as well with the children and the little one! Xx

  10. I loved the description of your celebrations in Belgium. The “gourmetten” and mini-crepes sounds wonderful. I’m imagining all sorts of miniature toppings and fillings for the tiny crepes. Whatever you do end up doing over the holidays, I hope it is wonderful, magical, and special. Enjoy!

    • I love your fantasy, Ellen. At home in Belgium, all we would put on our crepes was white patisserie sugar, light brown sugar or dark brown sugar. Abroad, when I made them on the boat or ashore, I sometimes put Nutella on it, or flakes of dark chocolate. Enjoy your holidays as well. I hope Scott will be back for them? For us, it seems like we will have a couple of friends visit on Christmas Day. And, you might even know them. 🙂

  11. www.retirementreflections.com

    December 22, 2017 at 17:35

    I love learning about different holiday traditions. Thank you for sharing yours. Wishing you and Mark a very safe, happy and healthy holiday and a peaceful New Year.
    I love the ‘Happy Holidaze’ photo.

    • I was surprised the photo actually came out. The Italian Greyhounds don’t really like to pose. We hope you and Paul have an amazing Christmas and a fantastic New Year, Donna, with many blogging and other adventures.

  12. Wishing you a wonderful time over the holidaze – however, and wherever, you decide to spend it.

  13. I loved reading about your family traditions and how the holidays were growing up for you. I just met a Russian girl here in Sri Lanka who told me that Russians also put emphasis on celebrating the New Year over Christmas! We will be here enjoying v time with one of my sons and his fiancée. But where we you are Liesbet happy new year and holidays to you both!
    Peta

    • Interesting about the Russian holiday traditions as well, Peta. I wonder how many European countries emphasize New Year over Christmas… To me it was a shock joining Mark’s extended family for that first Christmas tradition. Very overwhelming. But, fantastic food!

      Enjoy the holidays with Ben and your family! No snow for you… 🙂

  14. Merry Christmas to you both – I’d love to give everyone a stone of KINDNESS! 🙂

    • Thanks, Marian. Gently throwing that stone back at you. Now, if only we could get that chain going so the stone passes through everyone’s hands. I love the idea! Cheers to happiness, respect and kindness in 2018!

  15. I wish you both a lovely Christmas and much joy as you continue to travel throughout 2018 Liesbet. Also, much courage as you persevere with your book!

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful wishes, Denzil. I hope you keep enjoying Belgium and I’m looking forward to reading all the treasures you discover, whether they are sights or books. 🙂 Happy holidays to you and yours!!

  16. Have you been to Indian Canyons in Palm Springs? Amazing oasis there on Indian land. Also the Coachella preserve. Just got back from visiting friends in San Diego and spent a few days in Palm Springs , seeing Joshua tree , Indian canyons, and Coachella preserve. Beautiful places !! Huge palm trees at Coachella and Indian canyons!!

    • Thanks for the tips, Sue, those places sound pretty sweet. I’m glad you had an amazing time! We haven’t been to Indian Land over there. I would love to check it out in the future. We have been to Joshua Tree NP a long time ago with our dogs, so are looking forward to doing some hikes the two of us this time.

  17. My husband’s family used to have a similar tradition, cooking fondue in hot oil in a little pot in the center of the table. And we also now share the practice of buying one gift for the two of us. This year it is an annual pass to national art galleries all over the country. However you decide to spend your day, we hope you and Mark have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas! ~ Lynn

    • Where is your husband from, Lynn? I love the gift you and he are sharing this year. Very thoughtful and useful and non-material. 🙂 Merry Christmas and enjoy a year full of art and pleasure!

  18. Happy Holidays to you and Mark, Liesbet. I love your accounting of Christmas season traditions. I agree that one of the best traditions of the day itself is doing absolutely nothing except relaxing and enjoying lots of good food with people you love. I’m home with my mom and my cousin. My oven has this marvelous button called a “perfect turkey button.” Yes, really. You stick the probe in the turkey, push the button and it dings when the turkey is perfectly cooked. The cranberry sauce is already made, I’m going to make the stuffing today. Tomorrow is for watching movies, reading books, working a jigsaw puzzle, and lazily doing the mashed potatoes and vegetables after I hear the ding.
    I’ll be thinking of you enjoying your equally peaceful day.

    • Now, that is a magic button, Karen! All ovens should have it, and for different meats and veggies! 🙂 Sounds like you are all set for the special day. Over the years, food and good company have been the main ingredients for our Christmases and end of the year celebrations. And, this year, surprisingly, won’t be different as we have two friends passing through the area! The apple pie is baked, the stuffing, chicken and veggies will be for tomorrow. And, hopefully, we can add some rest to the mix in the morning as well. 🙂 No stress! I love it. Enjoy your meal and company!

  19. It’s fascinating how much the Christmas traditions vary around the world. Wherever you end up at New Year I hope you enjoy the celebration, Liesbet. Wishing you health and much happiness in 2018. 🙂 🙂

    • Thank you, Jo! And, the same to you. Wishing you many exciting wanderings and wonderings. 2018 might be a big one for you in regards of change! 🙂

  20. Mooi verwoord ! Fijne feestdagen en vlot 2018 gewenst !

  21. For us, Christmas is a busy time with lots of family around, gifts, tree, and big Christmas dinner. This year we had two of our grandchildren, aged two and five, with us, and my three kids and partners and one of my brothers, so lots of fun.

    Jude

    • What a wonderful time of the year for you, Jude. I”m glad to read that you enjoyed family time, good food and coziness! Have an amazing 2018!

  22. I intended to read this sooner, but my tablet acted up and just now getting to my laptop! I read more and more this year about non-traditional Christmases and totally understand how they can be different or modified each year. Being here in San Diego for the last nine years, means we have modified our holidays, even my daughters come to San Diego, since most of the family all lives here. All this warm weather is welcome, been cold in Sacramento. I do love the idea of your Christmases in Belgium and would love to experience something like that one day. Wishing you and Mark a Happy New Year and will see you in a few days!!

    • Reading, liking and commenting on blogs seems to become harder and harder on tablets. Not sure what is going on, but either WordPress or Safari is making this experience less fun for me… I’m glad to read that your San Diego holidays were as nice as other years, Terri. This city is a great place to be, any time of the year, but I love the mix of Christmas trees and decorations and palm trees. 🙂 Wishing you and Hans an amazing new year and lots of fun in Hawaii!! See you tomorrow. 🙂

  23. Happy holidays. Hope it was full of joy and warmth. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  24. Wow, it seems WP has been delaying sending me posts as I’m finding my reading blogs are all dated before Christmas? Well I hope you had a fabulous holiday season, and so, what did you end up doing for new years? 🙂

    • WP has a mind of its own sometimes. Fighting it – and other “technologies” with a mind of their own – is time-consuming and incredibly frustrating! But, now I can tell you that we unexpectedly met up with some RV/boating friends for Christmas and took our camper into the desert for New Years. 🙂

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