I'll be away for Christmas-featured image

Ever since I was a child, Christmas has had some powerful hold on me. I do everything over the top at Christmas: I start singing carols in October, I decorate my house from floor to ceiling, the Elf on the Shelf becomes another member of the family, and I declare that I am done my Christmas shopping in November, only to aggravate my husband by continually adding gifts until the clock strikes noon on Christmas Eve.

As an obsessive Christmaser (yes, I think I just made up a word), it shocked our family and friends when I told them two years ago that we were going away for Christmas. Now, don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t pulling a “Christmas with the Kranks” sort of thing in which I wouldn’t acknowledge the holiday; rather, I was going to celebrate and get the house decorated, and then…well, leave.

We left Christmas day…6 am Christmas morning, in fact. While other parents were begging their children to sleep just one more hour before checking out what Santa brought, we were heading out on the road to the airport. We had celebrated with family and friends in the days prior and tricked our three year old into believing that the day before was Christmas; in other words, in no way did we forgo Christmas, we just moved it to another day.

I'll be away for Christmas

Cold, snowy morning is what we left behind

Traveling Christmas day has it’s pros and cons. The pros? There is absolutely no traffic, no waiting, and no crowds. The cons? Pack a lot to eat and drink because it is the one day of the year that some stores actually close. Our family chose to drive down to Montana and fly to our sunny destination from there, saving more than 65% on flights for an easy trade of a five hour drive. In addition to that sweet deal, traveling on Christmas day, especially in the early morning, usually saves you a significant amount in ticket rates. From a financial perspective, traveling on Christmas day just makes sense.

As we touched down in the USA, leaving behind -36C degree weather(without windchill), and landing in a balmy 25C degrees, I was worried that our Christmas vacation would feel like anything but Christmas…and I was right. From the first glimpse of the palm trees to spending Christmas night swimming in an outdoor pool, our vacation away at Christmas was a vacation from Christmas, and it really made me realize just how swept up in the commercialism and consumerism of the holiday I was.

I'll be away for Christmas

Warm, desert, and quiet togetherness is what we found

We spent two weeks in Arizona and California and did what people should do during the holidays: relaxing, having fun, trying new things, and most importantly, spending time with the people we love the most. I realized on this trip that so much of my Christmas at home meant doing things that weren’t at all what Christmas is all about: buying gifts, cleaning, cooking, and shopping on Boxing Day. It took going away at Christmas and breaking free from the Christmas chaos to actually realize just how much I had been missing out at home and how far I’d strayed from some of the most important reasons to look forward to this holiday season.

After our amazing trip, which was the best family vacation we’d ever gone on, we made a pact to go away every second Christmas. With doting grandparents vying for dinners and traditions, spending Christmas away from home every year is not an option for us, but we would if we could!

Last year was our Christmas at home and it was one of the best yet. We spent time together, making sure we were constantly reminding ourselves and our children that Christmas is a time for family, not for gifts. This year, however, we are going awayand I have to admit that I am so looking forward to it. I love that our attention is completely on our family and making memories, and not on shopping, cooking, or cleaning; it is so much easier to do that away from the chores and to-do lists at home.

I am still a Christmas addict and love the music, the decorating, and the feelings of that magical time of year, but I have also come to realize that I love this holiday because it simply means being with my family. Going away at Christmas was the best thing that our family could have done, and now we look forward to planning each new trip to a new location…just as long as it has palm trees and sun.