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I’ve had a really hard time getting into any kind of holiday spirit this year. It’s been more than the usual crush of busyness before the holidays that can dampen the Christmas spirit, and I can’t simply put it down to feeling caught between Christmas and wedding plans, which has led to more than the usual sense of stress.

Possibly, it is that as an American abroad, there is no Thanksgiving to begin the holiday season. Suw and I did do Thanksgiving because she knows how much it means to me, but my family has had some very specific traditions around Thanksgiving. We had the traditional meal together, and then, the day after Thanksgiving, we often went to Milwaukee to go Christmas shopping. We would often have a German meal downtown at Karl Ratzsch’s or Mader’s. Apart from a few years, until I moved to London, this was our Thanksgiving tradition, and it set the stage for Christmas. I can still remember before I was even 10 going to Milwaukee with a little note pad in hand, writing down all the things I wanted for Christmas. And most years, I travelled home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents. Next year, Suw and I hope to go back to my home and celebrate Thanksgiving, possibly the last in the house I grew up in. My parents are considering selling my childhood home.

I’ve really tried to get into the Christmas spirit. I have listened to so much Christmas music, traditional and otherwise, that Suw is thoroughly sick of all of the Christmas music we have. I have watched a number of Christmas movies including the Charlie Brown Christmas special. But, it still hasn’t felt much like Christmas.

Today, Suw and I went down to Borough Market to buy food for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. There was a Salvation Army brass band there playing traditional carols in front of a giant Christmas tree. They played Silent Night, O Holy Night, Little Town of Bethlehem and the Holly and the Ivy. Finally, I felt that it was the holidays, and none too soon, it being Christmas Eve. Now, I can go to bed, feeling expectant that tomorrow is Christmas. Suw and I are going to take a break from wedding planning, tidying and other work and just enjoy the holiday together.

Holidays are important to me, not just for the time off, but it adds meaning to the year. The years passing can quickly blur together into little more than a succession of days, but taking time out to remember friends and family and share time with them, that is important. I can’t wait to make Christmas dinner with Suw tomorrow and open our gifts together. Merry Christmas!