So This Is Christmas

When we left the US in early November the hype for the Christmas season was already in full swing, the stores decorated and temptations arrayed with SALE! SALE! SALE!  The ads on the TV bombarded us with visions of an idealized Christmas with attractive, middle-class families smiling and having the best of times, SPENDING! SPENDING! SPENDING!  It was the perfect time to flee…

Thankfully no one we know!

Thankfully, no one we know.

This is our fourth consecutive Christmas outside the US and except for missing our family (Yay Skype) we’ve enjoyed some holiday time with new friends we’ve made along the way in each of our temporary homes.  We’ve appreciated our role on the sidelines watching long-established celebrations with the emphasis on family and community traditions rather than the commercialism, excess and high expectations that we were a part of for so many years.

Mexico, 2012

Mexico, 2012

Nicaragua, 2013

Nicaragua, 2013

Colombia, 2014

Colombia, 2014

As we’ve walked and driven around and about Lagos we’ve discovered, somewhat to our surprise, that the city’s decorations are very low-key with few outside ornaments and lights although many of the store windows around the central plaza have a Christmas themed display.

A lurking Santa and an unlit Christmas light display

A lurking Santa and an unlit Christmas light display

Santa's sleigh

Santa’s sleigh

In fact, until you duck into the larger stores or souvenir shops you might not even know that Christmas is just around the corner.  But if you look up you might catch a glimpse of Santa clambering about the rooftops.A tiny Santa checking out the chimneys

And what will we do for the holiday? Since we’re still in the settling-in phase in our newly adopted city our answer is a very contented, “Not much.”  We have our poinsettia plant which has been shedding leaves steadily as our lone concession to decorating for the season and we’re already wearing our Christmas presents that we bought a few days ago at a Christmas market: shearling slippers. shearling slippers for Christmas

Christmas Eve we’ll celebrate in one of our favorite little restaurants with a British style meal of turkey and the trimmings and just enough Christmas carols to get into the Christmas spirit.  And, if we can keep awake long enough, maybe we’ll drive around the city to see how others make merry.  As for Christmas Day?  There are miles of nearly deserted beautiful beaches nearby…  Does it get any better than that?

Christmas elves

Christmas Elves

Feliz Natal y Feliz Ano Nova to you and yours,

Anita and Richard

 

70 comments

  • We also love to get out of the U.S. over the holiday period and are this year in Myanmar. Last year we were in Morocco… Nomads like yourselves! Actually we lived in Granada Nicaragua for six years…am surprised our paths did not cross? We lived across the road from Pure Gym. Last year we seriously thought about setting shallow roots in Spain or Portugal. We thought Spain was a natural as we both speak Spanish…but it was Portugal we fell in love with. We spent a few months there…the Algarve region ( especially loved the natural reserve area just after Lagos. So gorgeous! We loved Lisbon as well. Portugal was so much less over developed than Spain, super friendly and great food! Look forward to reading you…

    http://www.greenglobaltrek.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • We know where the Pure spa/gym is and actually have friends who live across the street. Granada has a special place in our hearts and we keep in touch with many of the friends we made while we lived there. In fact, we have several visitors (5 and counting) from Granada who will be making the trek to our side of the Atlantic and checking out Portugal this Spring. It really is amazing how the world seems to get smaller the more you travel! It sounds like you loved many of the same things about Portugal that we do and we’ll have to follow up on your tip to check the nature reserve near Lagos. Let us know when you get to this part of the world again and enjoy your travels, also.

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  • Well I posted on FB for the world to see. Following up can you shoot me an email. Got my contract (on Christmas) and sent it to the consulate. Setting up US Forex ACH for debiting from my US account. Question: how long did it take you to open the bank account and were there any glitches (besides not having your SS card at the time)? And what did they need for applying for health insurance? Do you need any medical records. Feeling a little like the White Rabbit. So glad you had a relaxing Christmas. Can’t wait for February! Cheers!

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    • Hi Kiki. An email about living in Portugal, banks accounts and health insurance is on its way. As we write about what documents are needed for US citizens to reside in Portugal we’re trying to include both our glitches as well as what worked for us. It may seem like a daunting process but we definitely feel that living here in Portugal is right for us and will be a terrific experience.

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  • Anita and Richard, I love your expat Christmas traditions – they’re so much like ours – and the slippers are a great touch! 🙂 When we lived in Athens, our Christmas was very low key, such a refreshing change from the madness we’d experienced elsewhere. James and I wish you all the best in the New Year and look forward to your continued explorations in your new home. Feliz Natal y Feliz Ano Nova to you, too! ~Terri

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  • I spent Christmas Day at a beautiful beach with my sister and two of my nephews. We live near the beach so didn’t travel anywhere and we had a fun but definitely not fancy dinner later. No one even exchanged gifts because we quit a few years ago. None of us are religious and we’re all sick of the Christmas shopping craziness so it was just a nice day we could all spend together because my nephews had time off work. No decorations to put up or take down, no shopping , no stress. Excellent! Yours sounds nice too. I’ve spent a few Christmases by myself and one in London. I don’t really have an emotional attachment to the holiday and think it would be fun to do as you do and see how its observed in other – less heavily commercialized – countries.

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  • Merry Christmas to you both! We’re doing a traditional family Christmas tonight which I’ll be getting out the vodka early 😉

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  • What a great way to celebrate. We’ll be making short rib ravioli and laying low. Merry Christmas!

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  • Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel)

    I love those slippers – they looks so comfy and warm. I’m surprised there are so few decorations in Lagos as Christmas is celebrated in such a big way in so many countries across Europe. But it sounds as though you’re having a great time anyway – Merry Christmas to both of you!

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    • Little luxuries like the slippers are the perfect gift to ourselves this year and it’s nice not to have to worry about trying to fit everything back into a suitcase for our next destination. Like you, we were also surprised that there are so few decorations but it seems that Christmas here is a family celebration among the Portuguese. However, it’ll be fun to see how New Year’s is celebrated…!

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  • Merry Christmas, you two! Your celebration sounds perfect. We gave ourselves Star Wars movie date and new luggage for Christmas. We will be taking the redeye out of Bangkok Christmas night to Shanghai and thinking of the rest of the world celebrating in many different time zones. Best wishes to you for a happy, healthy New Year!

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    • A Star Wars movie date is on our itinerary too in the next few days either here in Lagos or nearby Portimão where we hear the theater is pretty plush. We replaced our luggage again this summer and I imagine that your gift is timely and very practical as well with many travels ahead for 2016. Happy Holidays wherever you are!

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  • Sounds good to us! Didn’t know that Santa was common in Portugal though.

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    • We’ve spied the jolly old gentleman welcoming people to various shops but you could be right, he may not be a very common visitor here in Portugal. The Algarve is a blend of many nationalities of expats and tourists, especially the British, so he may be a relatively newcomer to the area. There could be a story there somewhere … !

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  • Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a New Year filled with discoveries and unexpected joys!

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  • Low-key Christmas is good! Enjoy!

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  • Now that is my kind of Christmas! Ours is very low key, too. I did make a bunch of cookies and we are going to have a cookie party Christmas eve day. Other than that, we are hanging at home enjoying the holidays with our son and his fiance. Merry Christmas to you both.

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    • Thanks and we wish you the same. Who doesn’t love homemade cookies and a cookie exchange sounds like lots of fun. I used to love to bake and we spent many years baking (Anita) and packaging (Richard) Christmas cookies to give as gifts to friends and family. And having some family at your Ometepe home is going to make your holiday a stand out memory!

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  • I love your slippers. I know what will be in my suitcase after I visit Lagos. I haven’t spent a Christmas in Nova Scotia (home) since 2002. I’m usually somewhere warm basking on a beach. Sometimes I manage to enjoy turkey dinner, but not always. This Friday I land in Barcelona, and who knows what that Christmas Day will bring, and I can’t wait!

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    • At some point we’d love to return to Barcelona and see more of that amazing city. Your Christmas will be memorable indeed and who cares if you eat turkey with all of the other fabulous Catalan dishes available! And when you get to Lagos, we’ll make sure to help you find some shearling slippers to slip in your suitcase.

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  • Must be so interesting to experience Christmas in different places every year.

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    • We’re really enjoyed the luxury of choosing where we want to be each Christmas as well as seeing how other countries celebrate and decorate for the holidays. It makes the year’s finale stand out when we can remember the experience of where we were and what we did whether in a crowd of people, with friends or on our own.

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  • We are in the process of renovating our home in Southern California and needed to move out. We chose to move to Seattle to be near our daughter and will have Christmas in our tiny apartment rental. This is the first time away from extended family, but we love the holiday decor of the city. The lights are amazing and the iconic Space Needle is spectacular. We may even experience our first White Christmas!

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    • How fun to spend Christmas in the beautiful city of Seattle and know that right around the corner in 2016 your much anticipated return to your renovated Pasadena home is awaiting! You’ll get to celebrate the day with your daughter and then you’ll have all next year to enjoy time spent with your extended family rather than squeezing the togetherness in just a few days!

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  • Since 2009, we have been celebrating Christmas away from family (last year we actually shifted to Hangouts instead of Skype because we could have all 4 countries in one session!). But they have all been still in the commercial version in the US. Maybe next year we can spend it in Mexico and we can enjoy what you guys now have.

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    • It’s very nice to be able to celebrate the Christmas season in one’s own style and a lot more relaxing too! We realized several years ago that exchanging gifts among the relatives was rather pointless as we all had more stuff than we needed and that our most memorable Christmases were about what we did versus what we got! That did a lot to simplify the holidays and bring the focus back on the kids which makes it much more fun. Mexico might be just the perfect place for you to spend the holidays next year!

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  • I’ve been trying to talk my family into spending the holidays in Europe for years without success. I feel like i’m getting closer and after reading your post, realize I have to push a little harder next year. Enjoy your holidays-they sound terrific.

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    • We’re planning on visiting some of the bigger Christmas Markets around the region next year but keeping our Christmas very simple and just learning more about Lagos, the Portuguese culture and taking short drives to other villages has been more than enough to keep us entertained as well as appreciating our new home base!

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  • I love the sound of your Christmas. You’re right we get so caught up in the hype and commercialism of it all … although for us it is becoming less now the kids are grown. Have a fantastic Christmas in your new home and keep watering that Poinsettia xx

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    • We haven’t had a houseplant for so many years that it’s hard to remember that it needs tending! For us, Christmas has always been about the kids and, like you, now that we’re empty nesters, it’s become more about savoring the simple pleasures and pastimes like friends and a walk versus gift exchanges. Much cheaper, too! HaHa!

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  • And so goes Christmas in our area of Greece. We left the US in early October and there were already signs of Christmas merchandising going up. It took until about December 5th for any sign of Christmas merchandise, display or decorations to appear in our slice of Greece. So wonderfully simple and so wonderfully stunning! Merry Christmas to you – enjoy that beach walk on the 25th – we’ll be in a plane winging our way back to Seattle, sigh, but March won’t be too far down the road and we’ll be back!

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  • Mo Merry Christmas, Y’all

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  • How inspiring. My husband is a postal worker and yearns for the day he can spend the holiday in exactly the manner you ‘ve experienced. Happy Christmas!

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  • We are spending our Christmas with the Scotish side of the family, my husband’s family in Edinburgh, it will be cold for sure. Enjoy a much sunnier and warmer Lagos. Feliz Natal e prospero Ano Novo!

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  • Kudos to you both for keeping it simple. I am enjoying the natural beauty of Placencia,Belize. Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year. With love, Maida

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  • And Merry Christmas to you too!!!!!

    As I still struggle, and probably always will, to pack for a couple of weeks my mind is on friends and family this year.

    We are spending our 2nd Christmas in Mexico and really love dodging the horrifying “Weldon” family!! If I know them feel free to shoot!!

    Merry Christmas my dear dear friends!!!!

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    • We got the packing light dilemma down to a science in the last few years but it’s kind of fun now to pick up items like bulky slippers, jeans and fleece without worrying if they’ll fit in the limited space of our suitcases. Luckily, with the summer climate of Mexico you can bring a variety of clothes that don’t take up much space. Your challenge might be that enormous camera you’re toting but we sure are loving your pics! Make your own Christmas memories, enjoy your family and try to avoid any people wearing matching pajamas! 🙂

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  • Thoughtful post. Wonderful pictures from each year outside of the US. Happy and safe holidays to you.

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  • Happy holiday season to you, too. We’ll be taking a Christmas day walk on the beach here – an ocean and continent away from yours!

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  • My Christmas will be relatively low-key as well although I am home for the first time in four years. I have enjoyed putting up my decorations again and I’m happy our daughter is with us, the first time in three years. I’ve learned that Christmas can be celebrated a variety of ways. Connections with family and friends are important to me and like you I have to say Yay Skype. Wishing you a very merry Christmas.

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    • Thanks Donna and we return the sentiment! Celebrating Christmas in different ways and places gives us all a chance to come up with our own non-traditional experiences and can make each year a special memory in its own way. However, it also has to be lots of fun to return to your own traditions, dig out treasured ornaments, traipse down memory lane and spend some meaningful time with your daughter. Enjoy!

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  • This was a great post! I will be spending my second Christmas abroad and your writing sums up my feelings about the experience. Have a wonderful time!

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  • Feliz Navidad! We will be spending ours in Seville pretty much the same way. Very low key. Italian Christmas is traditionally Spaghetti with tuna at home, so we will have that and Christmas day we will drive around if the traffic isn’t too bad, and then gorge on movies. There are some Christmas markets in the old center and we might check those out. It’s nice to be away from all that sale..buy..buy..sale stuff in the U.S and we are not missing that! Enjoy!!!

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    • And to you too! For Thanksgiving we made New England clam Chowder so spaghetti with tuna sounds great. We’re going to have to check out some recipes as we have plenty of fresh tuna here. And I like your idea of going to the movies, too. We have a big theater in nearby Portimão that’s been recommended by friends or, if we get really lazy, we can always tap into Netflix. It’s all about the little comforts, right?

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  • Sounds about like our plans in Gorgona Panama. It’s so nice not to be lost in all the commercialization that is Christmas in the US. We hoe you both have a safe and wonderful Christmas. Enjoy yourselves.
    Suzi & Bob

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    • Right back at you, Suzi and Bob! Life doesn’t get much better than this and it’s great to take a deep breath, experiment with new dishes in our “kitchen for skinny chefs” and poke around the area exploring our surroundings. And, when we’re on our beach, we’ll send our wishes for a Happy New Year across the waters to you on your beach!

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  • Walking a deserted beach on Christmas day sounds wonderfully peaceful and relaxing. We hope you both enjoy the holiday season. Tim & Anne

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  • I understand your thoughts on living abroad during the holiday season all too well. Enjoy your Lagos Christmas as I’ll be enjoying my Istanbul one.

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  • great point! Just the time to escape. Though I am, for the first time in 4 years, home for the holidays this year. I have not, however, gone to a mall, nor do I plan on it!

    I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas! Thank you for always remembering us.

    Monica

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    • Granada, Nicaragua and the kids of Pantanal will always have a very special place in our hearts and we love keeping in touch with how the school is growing. Enjoy your time in the US with your family and friends, avoid the malls like the Black Plague and keep warm if you’re in the colder climes. Feliz Navidad, Monica!

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      • Hello Anita and Dick,
        I am glad to know that the both of you are doing well. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
        Freddy is here for the Christmas break.He looks a little thin but seems to be healthy.Terie and I went to pick citrus at her parent’s house about 2 weeks ago,the oranges were so sweet.Anyway,we put up lights and a Christmas tree but didn’t go overboard.We shopped today for a few presents for Freddy and a pair of shoes for me.I’ll get Terie something tomorrow (tuesday)12/22/15.
        I’m working on Christmas day but will get out at 4pm.This is my long weekend.I guess retirement is still probably 2 years away.So pray for me that I can stay strong and healthy to extend the healing
        ministry of Jesus Christ here at Memorial.The numbers just don’t work right now.
        I am so glad for the both of you.Keep in touch with us more often.It’s great hearing of your new adventures.
        Take care – Fred,Terie and Freddy

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