Wednesday, 24 December 2014


It's a quarter past midnight Christmas Eve and I am awoken by an incessant tapping at my door. It's my three adult children. "I can't believe this didn't wake you up!" they exclaim. The air around us is alive with fireworks. From the concrete balcony of our restored colonial hotel in Casca Viejo, old Panama, we watch the city skyline across the water. Fireworks explode off high rises.  Explosions rock the air just meters away.  The fusillade of firecrackers, set off by young boys on the street beneath us, drowns out the rock music blaring from the nearly rooftop bar. It goes on and on. Christmas Eve in Panama City.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Christmas. I love Christmas baking, Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, Christmas cards and Christmas wrapping. I love the traditions and cherish the memories. When I was a kid, we spent Christmas with grandparents. There were some firmly established rituals in my family and every year we did everything the same way. By the time my grandparents passed away, there were a couple years with my aunt and then we split Christmases with my parents and in laws, packing in and out not just kids and dogs and clothes and baby paraphernalia, but also gifts, stockings, and baking. Every year I grumbled. Why wouldn't everyone come to OUR house? Our house that was beautifully decorated. Our house where I would have meals prepared in advance. Our house where my husband could play his our music. Our house so I wouldn't have to pack diapers and wrapped gifts and worry about letting the dog in and out. But that was never our way. I looked forward to the day when I could establish my own traditions. And then my mom died and I just didn't want to do Christmas any way at all.

And so it is that we find ourselves on Christmas in Panama City. A place where they decorate Christmas trees imported from Canada. Where Santa and snowmen grace the homes of people who have never seen snow. Where Christmas Eve is one big street party. Where there are very few traditions I recognize.

Rituals and traditions bind us to each other and connect us to our past. My family's traditions will continue to evolve. I have no idea what next year will bring, but so long as I have my family, Christmas will be Christmas.

Whatever your traditions are this Christmas, I wish you and your family the very best!