Christmas Snow and Sun

As children of the Mediterranean, Christmas season was a time of howling winds, jittery cold and, if extraordinary luck prevailed, occasional glimpses of snow. As we grew older, the most treasured gift became not the latest plastic gadget or trinket, but a warm scarf and/or wind-resistant jacket. As we grew even older, a nice bottle of whiskey would also be added to the most-wanted list.

Having left the old south for the slanted bricks and lighted canals of Amsterdam, winter took a more implacable turn, involving frozen fingers, inclement rain and the odd broken rib, courtesy of slippery roads and smooth bicycle tires.

Nonetheless, Christmas in Amsterdam brought a keener sense of snow and silence.

Amsterdam snow

Close friends, many of them also expats, would depart to their native countries to celebrate the holidays surrounded by family and traditional beverages with insanely high alcohol content. Without them, the city fell into a nippy languor, and we braved the sprawling slush only to feed their cats or visit one of the brown bars scattered around town, to indulge in warm cups of mulled wine.

Following the first flakes of Christmas snow, the small picturesque streets would turn into white unmarked corridors, beautiful but eerie in their stillness. Leaving the speckled canals, the coziness of home would be shared with remaining friends and copious amounts of cake.

Throughout the years, divided between southern and northern Europe, the merry season became equated with gloves and constant sightings of our own breath. Even if snow was absent, cold and rain would make their presence known, in our bones and in our frazzled spirits. The usual last dash to buy overdue gifts meant drenched bodies and depleted patience, only made bearable by dreams of a lit fireplace and the taste of roasted chestnuts accompanying hot chocolate.

Snow garden Amsterdam

Today, as Christmas approaches once again, we find ourselves in Guatemala, by the shores of Lake Atitlรกn. The habitual signifiers of this festive period can be seen everywhere we turn, with plastic mistletoe, colorfully decorated trees and visions of portly white-bearded figures becoming as common as oxygen.

However, ย all of the sights above are overshadowed by one disconcerting fact: we’re wearing t-shirts.

Heat is a new variable in our Christmas equation, even more bewildering than the sustained whirring of tuk-tuks passing by. The sun is warm and our bodies languid, both conditions we associate with the sultry summer months or exotic escapades into SE Asia.

We feel almost stuck in an alternate universe, a lopsided cosmic stage where the sea shuns the moon and children adore brussels sprouts.

Although memories of snow and wintry chills are turning our first warm Christmas into a peculiar experience, we made an effort to embrace the jolliness within and created our very own seasonal postcard, somewhat comforted by the knowledge that, even if we will have to endure snowless festivities, at least our ice-cream is cold.

A Lunaguava Christmas

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26 Responses

  1. Greg says:

    I love your Christmas picture. While the holiday season in Dallas could be anywhere from cold to warm, our new home in Costa Rica is quite consistent throughout the year – about 80 degrees as a high. This will be our first Christmas away from the States and family and showers of wrapping paper on the morning of the 25th but I am oddly at ease with it.

    I wish you the Happiest of Merry Christmases.

    • FW North says:

      Hola Greg! Our Christmas holidays in Amsterdam had also been quiet affairs, but we actually enjoyed it. Thanks a lot for your kind words and we wish you a splendid (and warm) Christmas! Good luck!

  2. Syd says:

    Loving the christmas card. You guys are adorbs ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I fear I am going to miss my HOT Xmas this year, being in the cold with the fire place on seems so strange to me as an Aussie. So I know how you feel, but in reverse. Have a great Christmas.

    • FW North says:

      Hola Sarah-Jane! Different latitudes, different experiences. But hey, at least with cold & fireplaces you can enjoy some traditional hot drinks ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a great Croatian Christmas and thank you for stopping by!

  4. From Amsterdam to Guatemala – two very different styles of Christmas festivities I am sure but very cool in their own rights! Love the Christmas pictures you have included.

    We spent Christmas last year in Australia which incorporated heat/summer for the first time in both of our lives because we are generally used to the cold, wintry days hoping to celebrate a White Christmas!

    Great post guys!

    • FW North says:

      Thank you Chris! For people raised in cold winters, it’s very strange to be sweating around Christmas without a fireplace in sight. Also, most Christmas signifiers are related to chilly weather (snow, reindeers, snowmen, etc.), which only adds to the sense of displacement. But we are happy to be enjoying a sunny season ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you have a white Christmas! Good luck!

  5. I’m not always used to snow (it doesn’t consistently snow in Tennessee), but I am used to cold Christmases. It will be interested to see how I handle being in SE Asia next year during Christmas. In true Tennessee weather (unpredictable) we had tornadoes last night so that was a new one haha. Love the card and enjoy your sunny Christmas!

    • FW North says:

      Tornadoes? That’s taking it a bit too far ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope your 2014 Christmas in SE Asia will be as sunny and relaxing as ours in Guatemala. Thank you for stopping by and good luck!

  6. I’ve never had a warm Christmas before. I wonder what it would be like. I think my body would be so confused. Christmas time and there it is not cold? Strange. But it must be so nice to be in the warmth, enjoying your ice creams! Love the card ๐Ÿ™‚

    • FW North says:

      Hola Adelina! Yep, it’s our first warm Christmas, and our bodies (and minds) are very confused. But we do love ice-creams ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thank you and happy holidays!

  7. Me again…. just to let you know that I’ve pinned these to a few of my boards – hope that’s okay. Cheers for linking up to #SundayTraveler!

  8. I love your card (and yes, I am a bit envious of that ice cream). Regardless of somehow nostalgic tone, I just don’t believe you are missing the winter slush right now (the ice cream gave you away :).

    • FW North says:

      Haha! You’re right, I don’t miss the slush at all! But it’s our first Christmas in a thoroughly unfamiliar environment (and climate), so my nostalgic bones tend to rattle a bit. Good luck and happy holidays, Frank!

  9. Jess says:

    The pictures from Amsterdam look beautiful – but I’m still jealous of your t-shirts and ice cream!

    • FW North says:

      Many gracias, Jess! The t-shirts and ice-cream are taking a bit of getting used to, but we’re not complaining ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy holidays!

  10. Dave says:

    The warm weather over Christmas is definitely strange – I am spending the holiday in Ethiopia, where the dry season (sunny, 75 degrees) is in full swing. Thankfully, the holiday feeling is still present and we’re doing what we can to make it more Christmas-y. Feliz Navidad!

    • FW North says:

      Hola Dave! Ethiopia?! Fine, you win… Christmas in Ethiopia sounds like a fantastic experience. Hope you enjoy it. Feliz navidad to you too! Good luck!

  11. Jeff Johns says:

    Love the wintery photos guys but glad you are staying warm in beautiful Guatemala. We’ve shared many a Thanksgiving in Antigua. Gotta say we would give up this rain for tshirts in a heartbeat!

    • FW North says:

      Ha! Thanks a lot, Jeff! Yeah, we wouldn’t want to trade our warmth for cold at the moment – our European friends are mostly freezing by now… Happy holidays!

  12. Samantha says:

    Aw that photo made me miss snow…. a little bit. I have to admit it is VERY pretty but after the 5th day of straight snow I could say byebye very fast! I remember the last blizzard I was in back in the States and we had no power or water for over a week ๐Ÿ™ So now I am glad I am in sunny 90 degree weather by the beach hehe

    • FW North says:

      Yeah, I also find snow to be at its nicest as a reminiscence ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you continue to enjoy sun & beach in 2014. Good luck!

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