I’m no Christmas grinch, in fact I love the festive season- from mince pies to setting the Christmas pudding ablaze; the tinsel to the turkey – I EVEN like the tacky presents you get in Christmas crackers (who knew you needed another set of mini screwdrivers?). Nothing screams yuletide cheer more than stuffing yourself with transfatty acids and sherry whilst watching Mr Bean trying to force a giant turkey into a microwave with hilarious consequences on TV. This must of course, be done surrounded by copious amounts of wrapping paper and ribbons -or better still, from peering through eye holes in a giant box that you’ve managed to salvage from a newly opened present (sniggers). I’m not the only one, right?
Well every now and again it all gets a bit much and after three solid days of being physically unable to move due to having managed to eat my entire body weight in mincemeat and leftover turkey – I had started to question whether there is a better way to do it.
Going abroad at Christmas for many, may seem like an expensive and unnecessary hassle. For some, an unobtainable dream- to be able to leave the cooking, clearing up and granny-sitting duties to someone else for one glorious year. Some may find the thought of leaving family or loved ones behind inconceivable.
Well we took the plunge a few years ago and booked ourselves into a resort on Cape Verde, a tiny island off the coast of West Africa, leaving on Christmas Day morning for a week. As strange as it was arriving on the island to thirty degree heat, beautiful sandy beaches and Christmas songs being played out of loud speakers- it was a welcomed change to our usual festive routine. We substituted time on the couch for time on our sunloungers, Christmas dinner for a sumptuous all you can eat feast of seafood and our usual Boxing Day walk for quad biking on voluminous sand dunes.
A big draw for us was the weather, the thought of lapping up the sunshine whilst thinking of how terribly miserable the weather might be back home was strangely appealing. Of ditching the presents to just enjoy and savour the moment. For making Christmas less about ‘things ‘ and more about having unforgettable experiences. It was, in some ways, a welcome relief to avoid the ritual of hours of present giving, shortly followed by clearing up, only to discover that you now own thirteen pairs of reindeer socks and about three kilos of chocolate. How lovely it was to sip cocktails whilst watching the sun go down over the sea, blissfully (and literally) miles away from the present induced carnage back home. No panic buying gifts on Christmas Eve, no bustling through shoppers to buy the last remaining bag of brussel sprouts in Sainsbury’s, no pine needles to clear up from the floor beside your ‘non- drop’ Christmas tree. Instead, the only thing we had to worry about was which restaurant we were going to dine in that evening.
I almost tricked myself before we left into thinking that we were being less materialistic, but in fact splashing out on a holiday somehow felt even more self indulgent- and was accompanied by feelings of guilt that we had left our families behind, surrounded by wrapping paper watching Mr Bean on their own.
Practically speaking, avoiding the Christmas Day shenanigans meant that everyone still got presents and cards, and that our celebrations were a bit more toned down than normal when we got back. We were still able to meet with friends and family before and after our trip, and enjoyed the run up to Christmas in December as usual. We just broke it up with a week of fun in the sun, and who wouldn’t want that?
Would i do it again? Yes. Did i enjoy Christmas more than I would have back home? Not sure. It seems to me that Christmas takes on a different meaning for each person, and whilst like me you may get tired of the usual routine – ultimately it doesn’t feel like Christmas without it. However I can’t say that for that one year I missed any of it, and I was quite happy dosing up on vitamin D and sunshine before returning to the much colder British winter- where loved ones were waiting to wish us festive greetings and cook up a belated feast.
(We’ve stayed at home for Christmas ever since).