Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Different Kind of Holiday

Christmas at the Brenna house is usually quite routine. My folks have been heading south for the winter right after Thanksgiving for many, many years, and seeing them over Christmas is normally not an option. So we've always stayed in town alternating between our house and my in-laws for a big Christmas meal. Santa has traditionally come during the night, and although my kids are far too old for the man in the white beard, we have continued to open gifts on Christmas morning.

We make cinnamon rolls along with a big breakfast. Homemade eggrolls later. Christmas music, a fire, movies, wassail simmering on the stove. Lots of tradition. And the house is normally decked out with all the trimmings.

Not this year. Christmas 2009 will go down in history in the Brenna family records as the most unusual. We were out of town with no Internet access, and I don't mean off visiting relatives, either. Nope. I just spent a week in paradise. Think rum punches and sandy beaches. Sunscreen and snorkeling. Crystal clear blue waters and eighty-five hot, humid degrees!

We went to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and, I swear, I'm going back again to the Caribbean the first chance I get. Check it out. This was the view from our condo window.

And this was the view from St John, the neighboring island we ferried to for a day of amazing snorkeling.

So can you blame me that I didn't pull out all the stops and decorate the house this year? Given Mom's looming deadline and the timing of our trip, the kids were lucky to have a tree. But I have to admit that while we were hanging in the sun, more than once someone mentioned, "This is weird." Or, "It doesn't feel like Christmas." Listening to Christmas carols while the sun's beating down on your face and your feet are buried in hot, sugar-soft sand is strange.

And we enjoyed every minute of it. I have a feeling my kids will be wanting some NEW traditions because ... this is what we came back to on Sunday!

I'm absolutely positive I was not prepared for 24 or so inches of snow and 20 degree weather. But even with 70 spf my freckles are vivid, so I won't complain too much.

Have you had a favorite Christmas or other holiday? What made it so special? Ever do something unexpected for the holidays? How'd it go?

Happy Holidays everyone!


Playground Monitor said...

Well Helen, I think I officially hate you now. We don't have snow but it's cold enough for it.

Honestly, though, what a great Christmas trip. LOL about the "this is weird" comments. Just think of the folks in Australia. If they visited Minnesota at Christmas, they'd be saying the same thing.

I went to my mom's for Christmas this year so I wouldn't be at home alone. I drove via #1 son's house (and #2 son was there too) so we had our celebration 5 days early and the grandbaby loved her prncess gifts and the lighted reindeer I can't use anymore because I don't have a yard. Her exclamation of "OH WOW!" when we lit them made my day.

The trip to mom's was planned before she had major surgery and spent the two weeks before Christmas in the hospital. On Christmas Day I got a crash course in colostomy bags -- not exactly the kind of bags I like on Christmas. Fortunately her colostomy is temporary.


Indigo said...

I have had my share of hot and humid Christmases after living in Fla. for 9 years. So it's no surprise my favorite one would be the first Christmas I came back to NY. It wasn't the tree or the trimmings but the snow that held me enthralled. I never tire of it either. Admittedly soon after the holidays I wouldn't mind a beach and 85 degree weather. However during the Christmas season I want my snow. Those years I lived in Fla., it always seemed strange seeing a a palm tree with Christmas lights.

Debra Dixon said...

I only have one word-- AWESOME!

I keep trying to get the fam to go somewhere for Christmas.

So far no go.

GunDiva said...

I want to go to St. Anywhere-in-the-warm! Sounds like a great time.

lois greiman said...

I'm with gun diva. st anywhere. yummy. but i have to admit minnesota is gorgeous this year. thanx for sharing the pics, helen.

Helen Brenna said...

Marilyn - Christmas in a hospital sucks. I hope your mom is recovery quickly. Glad you had some nice time with your sons beforehand. May 2010 hold much joy for you!

Helen Brenna said...

Indigo, this St Thomas experience made me realize that so many of the people who celebrate this holiday either never or rarely have a white one. I guess growing up in MN, I just never thought much about NOT having snow. That song - Dreaming of a White Christmas - I'm like, huh?

Helen Brenna said...

Deb, I've been bugging the family for years to go somewhere one of these Christmases. Oddly enough, the one we decide to go is the first year my folks actually STAYED in MN for the winter. Crazy.

GunDiva - It was awesome, but honestly, I couldn't do it every Christmas.

You're more than welcome, Lois, and you're right - it is beautiful outside. Once I get out there with the dogs I'll get to actually enjoy it a bit.

Cindy Gerard said...

Sounds like an amazing trip, Helen. And snow and cold were the order of EVERY day this past Christmas season. Beautiful but treacherous and made of 'iffy' plans. Fortunately for us, our kids and family made it home and we were all able to be together. Priceless :o)

Helen Brenna said...

Cindy, I stayed away from the news the entire time we were gone so I didn't realize how bad it was until we got home! I imagine the weather impacted quite a few holiday plans. Glad you and yours were safe.

Paula R said...

Hi Helen, welcome back! It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I remember growing up in Jamaica when Christmas was just like how you spent it. I never knew anything about snow except from movies, and who believed those anyway when you haven't seen it? I am glad you had a wonderful trip to St. Thomas. It is beautiful there, and a little like the US too.

The most memorable Christmas for me was when I went to Nashville for the first time. Well, I was gonna be alone anyway, so I decided why not be alone somewhere different than the usual place. It was awesome because I got to see a lot of the Country Music scenes I love. Walking in the Grand Ole Opry was awesome, going to the Opryland Hotel and seeing how they decorated it was breathtaking. Each "wing" had a different theme and they had a "lake" running through. Seeing people taking gondola rides in the hotel as well as watching one of best laser light shows I had ever seen was truly amazing. I did that for three years before joining the military, and I think I might start that one up again. Once again, welcome back, and I hope that you have fully readjusted to the MN weather during the winter.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Christie Ridgway said...

Helen! I just got back from Hawaii, and let me say I LOVE a tropical Christmas. We had one other, in Puerto Vallarta a few years back, and I loved that one too. The kids are not as big a fan of being away. Like you said, it didn't really feel like Christmas (even here in SoCal, we need slippers not sandals Christmas morning) but I had no prob with that.

However, if I hear the song "Mele Kalikimaka" (Merry Christmas in Hawaiian) one more time I may go crazy! I've been humming it in my dreams.

Helen Brenna said...

Hey, Paula! I didn't know you grew up in Jamaica. Do you miss it at times?

I've been to Nashville once, but see a bit of the Opryland Hotel. I hadn't a clue that it was so magnificent. But I had a fantastic time in the city, barhopping and listening to great music. Yep, you should go again.

Helen Brenna said...

Welcome home, Christie! And Mele Kalikimaki! lol

Paula R said...

Helen, I absolutely miss JA, especially during the winter season. I moved here about two months after my 11th birthday. I can't believe how I haven't gotten used to the cold yet. I feel like I have been in the US forever, but I still freeze as soon as temp drops below 75. LOL!!! I will definitely go back to Nashville. I am planning on going this summer for RWA!

Christie, welcome back and Mele Kalikimaki!!! I hope you had a wonderful time. Did you go to Oahu or one of the other islands? I loved Oahu and Waikiki while I was there. I stayed within walking distance of Waikiki beach. Beautiful island that.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

KylieBrant said...

Helen, I am so envious! And curious, because I'm trying to get the dh to go somewhere new this year and have always wanted to try the Bahamas!

Michele Hauf said...

Helen, and Christie! Cruel women to flaunt your steamy beach getaways in my snow-buried face! I NEED warmth and beach sand.

Seriously, though, so cool that you were able to get away and enjoy the sun with your family.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Helen, what a lovely gift for your family. Tickets to paradise! I'm so glad you had safe travel, good weather, and great times.

Clyde and I took a Caribbean cruise in January years ago. He got bronchitis, and we blamed it on the air conditioning. There's nothing worse than getting sick during one of those long-awaited winter getaways.

We spent Christmas in Orlando with my mother one year. Our kids were the right age for Disney-Epcot adventures, and it turned out to be the last Christmas we had with Mama. Somehow I don't remember the Christmas part so much. It didn't feel like going home, even though Mama had moved there. It was a good time, though. My brother, his wife, and my sister were there.

I have fond memories of a couple of tropical Christmases when I was a kid. After that we moved to New England. A "proper" Christmas is a snow scape for me, but a warm getaway is always welcome.