Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Missing those Christmas tunes

I've had Christmases abroad but until we moved to Bosnia I had never spent a Christmas in a country which doesn't really celebrate Christmas*. Christmas Day is a normal working day here and I am finding it odd. I hadn't realised how ingrained into my psyche Christmas is and to be somewhere where Christmas doesn't really feature is unsettling. There aren't really any cheesy Christmas movies on TV. That special sort of Christmas smell, the gingery, cinammony, fir tree smell is lacking. I'm missing Christmas carols - hell, I'm even missing Slade and Band Aid.

I'm finding this most difficult around the boys. We may live in Bosnia, but they are English and Christmas is a huge part of their culture. They need to grow up learning about the nativity, getting excited about presents, enjoying the build up, the parties, the preparation and the anticipation of it all. There are no Christmas activities at their nursery, no nativity play, no shepherd's in tea towels, no Mary forgetting her lines and dropping Baby Jesus.

So we're trying to do it alone. They have advent calenders which are eagerly opened every morning. We put up a tree at the weekend, complete with decorated baubles and gaudy lights (note to self: never, ever trust the husband to buy the Christmas lights again - he may have had instructions for simple white ones that don't do all that flashing, but he disregarded it completely and with an evident enjoyment, before conceding somewhat later that night that all the flashing is giving him a headache). We're on a baking binge to try and get that special Christmas smell going throughout the house; this afternoons efforts will be gingerbread men, (but without the golden syrup, hoping honey will prove to be an adequate substitute). Tinsel is all over the place. I've got the radio tuned in to British radio stations to get carols and Christmas songs into their consciousness. We talk a bit about Baby Jesus's birthday, but to be honest they are more interested in Father Christmas.

We had Christmas in Bosnia last year, and loved it, but this year we are driving to Switzerland for the festive season. I'm very much looking forward to it. We will be seeing lots of family, eating food that we don't normally have access to and most importantly for me, having a whole country also engaging in Christmas festivities. I'm quite tired of doing all the Christmas atmosphere myself.

Having been the outsider for a few years, the one trying to celebrate a festival which no one else is really, I have far more empathy for those who are also find themselves in a minority. It is often wonderful, and the experience that we are having of living in a different culture are always fascinating, but sometimes, it is nice to be in sync with the rest of the country.


*this being Bosnia, obviously it is complicated. The Catholic Bosnian Croats celebrate Christmas, but they are concentrated in the south and west of the country. Tuzla is in the Northeast and although there are a some Croats here, it is predominantly Muslim and Serb. The Muslims celebrated Bajram earlier this month, and the Serbs follow the Orthodox calender, celebrating Christmas on January 7th. It isn't totally unChristmassy here; there are Christmas decorations around, the local supermarket Bingo has some really beautiful wooden ones that I am tempted to buy up for keepsakes and there are lights up in the streets but the sense of momentum towards Christmas so obvious in the UK is absent.

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Obviously being in Bosnia we are also missing the panto season. Oh yes we are! This sadly means that we can't sign up for the Great Panto Review 2009 to help raise funds for NACCPO - the National Alliance of Childhood Cancer Parents Organisations who work to support children and young adults with cancer. But I would recommend anyone in the UK to check out the reviews, think about going to see one, and to donate if they can to this small organisation that is entirely dependent upon funds that they raise for its work.

25 comments:

Vic said...

I guess even Christmas in the US would be a little strange to those of us used to the UK variety but Bosnia must seem like almost a different world to the UK at Christmastime.

Mwa said...

Christmas in Switzerland will be beautiful. All the snow and the chalet thing really lend themselves to good Christmas spirit.

Kate said...

Strangely although Bahrain is obviously a Muslim country, there is evidence of Christmas everywhere. All the malls, restaurants and even the hospitals have trees and decorations, the supermarkets are selling crackers and chocolate boxes,schools put on Christmas Festive Fayres and there is a panto at the local expat club.

Emily O said...

Funny how so many of us in this country moan about Christmassy things appearing in the shops in September and how it's all commercialised, etc, etc. But would we really have it any other way? At least we can celebrate Christmas how we want to and I can imagine when you're in a different environment it must be strange missing out on it all. I'm sure Switzerland will be a lovely place for Christmas - maybe even a white Christmas if you're hilly enough? Hope you enjoy it.

TheMadHouse said...

I love this time of year and am not sure I could manage it in a different country. MiniMad came home yesterday to regale us in tales of Baby Jesus and it was fantastic to all sit round the dining table discussing it.

Alice said...

Ah yes, even after a series of Christmases in Oz I struggle with the sun and the heat (which of course I love the rest of the time!) And the Christmas tunes don't feature to the same extent either... never ever thought I would miss them!

Richard said...

Being a music fan who takes all of that sort of thing far too seriously, I can't stomach the same old Christmas songs every year. There's nothing guaranteed to make me feel less in the mood for peace and goodwill than Chris bloody Rea droning on about driving home for Christmas.

Thankfully, there's lots of great Christmas music being made every year that never gets near the radio. This blogpost from I Am Fuel You Are Friends contains some newer festive favourites if you want to check them out - I particularly recommend the gorgeous Mumford and Sons track - http://www.fuelfriendsblog.com/2009/12/08/fuelfriends-christmas-mix-2009/

Toni in Ithaca said...

We finally had snow this week in central New York State, and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here! Cold, shoveling snow, Christmas tree up and lit, boxes shipped off to grandchildren. Last night we watched The Christmas Story, a winner for kids of all ages. Maybe you can find the DVD in Switzerland for L and A.

Teacher Mommy said...

I am far too grinchy this year for my own good. I'll pull out the spirit when it comes time, but for now I'm avoiding the tunes and am not getting very holly-jolly. Sigh.

If I could ship you what I'm not using, I would...

kate said...

Bosnia is not a muslim country, there are still 50 percent christains. But how you can see they suppress everyone and everything what is not a muslim.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Vic - I think it might be weirder to be in the US. I'd probably expect it to be the same as the UK, whereas here I'm expecting something totally different.

Mwa - I'm so excited!

Kate - The Christmas decorations are out, but no sign of crackers, there is an expat Fayre in Sarajevo - although I heard that in true expat fashion there is so much infighting that they are having to have two to please everyone (disclaimer here - I have no idea if this is true or not!)

Emily O - It is just odd not having it exactly like you expect it at home, but we are so excited about going to Switzerland. Just think of the chocolate! The wine! The expense (oh no, block out the expense. Not good not good.)

MH - How lovely!

Alice - Well if you move off to sunnier climes and marry an Australian what do you expect! Hope the twins have a great Christmas this year, they'll love it!

Richard - Normally I'm with you every step of the way, but I'm missing the Band Aid sing along moment, and The Pogues. I'll go and have a look at this site though, we have an 18 hour drive coming up so need some more music URGENTLY!

Toni - We just found Tom and Jerry Christmas edition in the DVD place by the clock on the Korzo (the only place to go). It is fab and they can watch it in English or Bosnian. Perfect!

TM - it would be gratefully received. Usually I'm with you, but with no one else getting all jolly, I'm finding that I miss it. And, heaven help me, I'm stepping into the void!

Kate - Thanks for your comment. I know that there are many Christians in the country. It is just that it is only the Croats who celebrate on December 25th and there aren't that many Croats in this region (some, certainly, but not many). I'm sure if we were in Herzegovina I'd be writing a very different blog post.

Laruca said...

I know exactly what you mean. I usually whinge about Christmas songs in November but I really missed that this year, my first Christmas with none of that. I went a bit mental and put our tree up on the 30th of November - feeling a lot better since!
There are some lights up in Sarajevo and a couple of trees in shop windows, but none of the anticipation and excitement. Oh well, we'll have to make our own.
As to the bazaar, mostly true.
I think they've been living in Bosnia too long, lost the ability to work together and agree on things..

Tattie Weasle said...

Snow at Christmas you are going to have such a good time. I really did love my odd Christmasses but I was only a child and it was my parents who did all the build up including a variety of very stange Christas Trees! Your boys will always remember them and think they were wonderful!

George's Mum said...

I'm wafting the vapours coming off my mulled wine in your general direction. I hope you and the boys have a wonderful Advent and Christmas even if you have to build it all up yourself!!! x

Maternal Tales said...

I used to hate Christmas when I was younger, so one year I ran off to Thailand on my own and sat on a beach instead. My Dad didn't speak to me for 6 months because he was so angry. Thing is, even sitting on a beach I kind of missed Christmas and ended up decoating a little tree I found with some sort of tinsel. Like you say, it's engrained in our psyche!

Working Mum said...

This post was so interesting. To hear about people celebrating their own religion and culture in a country that doesn't have the same festivals really made me think about those in this country holding on to their traditions. Switzerland sounds like a dream Christmas holiday and yes, buy some of those wooden decorations as keepsakes. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, WM x

Sandy Calico said...

How lovely that you are making such an effort for your boys. Mmm, Switzerland for Christmas sounds wonderful!

nappy valley girl said...

Switzerland will be wonderful, I am sure. Here it seems pretty similar to the UK Christmas so far - although I am told that on Boxing Day it's all over!

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angelsandurchinsblog said...

Wow - even missing Slade. Know what you mean, though. Once you hear that familar riff, you know Christmas is well and truly upon us. Oh yes it is... Guess who went to a panto yesterday? Happy Christmas to you and the boys, big and little, and do buy those decorations in Bingo. They sound gorgeous.

Online Mum said...

Phew, I didn't know things were so complicated in Bosnia, well done for putting so much effort into keeping Christmas alive for your family

Previously (Very) Lost in France said...

I know what you mean. I spent many years in the Middle East and it was so different to get the Christmas spirit, and on top of everything else it was hot! Just didn't seem right. (Just read the comment from Kate so obviously things must have changed a lot since I was there) Recently back from 5 years in France where Christmas is only 1 day so we're looking forward to a proper Christmas season. My husband has the same 'taste' in lights. The last ones he bought had 21 different functions. Grim! Found you through Fanciful Alice. Great blog.

A Modern Mother said...

Have a wonderful time in Switzerland! That sounds very Christmassy!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Laruca - I'm feeling better now our tree is up to. I'm so intrigued by the bazaar shenanigans - surely this is not the example to be setting! (The Bosnians think it is hilarious)

TW - apparently we are getting snow here tomorrow. Certainly cold enough!

George's Mum - Mulled Wine! That is a good idea. I did get taken by surprise to be given some last month in a tiny cafe right on the Serbian border and it was really really good.

MT - I don't think I could do that! I quite like my tinsel and mince pies.

WM - I think I am going to nip out there at the weekend and get some. Husband will moan about space in the car when the time comes to return but I'll keep singing la la la with my fingers in my ears. They are beautiful.

SC - Looking forward to it very much!

NVG - I'm a bit embarrassed about the amount of chocolate I'm going to eat. The US will be wonderful to, although I do think Boxing Day is a good idea!

Anon - you can get in touch with me through my email found on the profile page.

A&U - Things are truely bad if I am missing Slade!

OM - complicated doesn't even start to describe it. What is true for one part of the country isn't for another. But it is a great country, really great.

Previously - I like the season. All that effort for just one day doesn't quite seem right. Glad you came!

MM - I'm going to make up for the lack of Christmassy build up in a big way.

Victoria said...

Our Thai Christmas was the strangest as while they didn't mention anything to do with the central message (why would they, they're Buddhist), they went for it full tilt in a commercial sense. So every single shop was decorated, playing jingle bells etc, but it all felt rather empty and lacking. And hot.