Do you celebrate Christmas?  And if so, how does it make you feel?  

Christmas is a very difficult time for many people, and brings up so many emotions. Personally we are extremely fortunate not to be in need or distress. For which I’m immensely thankful. However, since moving to live away from ‘home’, Christmas is a time increasingly riddled with crazy pressures and strain.

Are you one of the people who absolutely love Christmas and thrive on the magic of it? You can’t wait for the weather to turn cold and have a prospect of snow. Do you put your Christmas trees up at the earliest opportunity and start humming festive tunes? 

Or someone who can’t wait for it to be over. That has missed the element of joy that the Christmas lovers have firmly within them. Instead feel the stress, hours of work and, let’s face it, probably considerable family arguments stretching before them. 

Living away from family and close friends delivers another dimension.  The trope of parents buckling under the demands of present buying for demanding teens. Providing last minute outfits for the school performance, secret Santa gifts and bottle donations for the Christmas Fair. Then wondering whether to write cards this year or to donate instead.

For here, there is the added guilt of being away.  Of having chosen to live apart from friends and family and thus being the ones that need to accommodate everyone else for Christmas and or harbouring a desire to reconnect to make Christmas feel right.

Have you had that feeling before? That warm glow of feeling wanted and loved. Of feeling truly important to others, but accompanied by the bilious aftertaste of resentment when you realise that you are destined to do all the travel, flex your plans in all directions and organise and arrange gifts that are suitable for not only the recipient but also transporting back by plane.

Since living in Switzerland I have found that Christmas prep has grown exponentially, as seemingly our family must make considerations for everyone else and parental desire that our own children still have the chance for something akin to Christmas magic.

Travel, well of course we will, that seems only fair when we are the furthest away.  But then somehow we always end up with long car journeys to visit different sides of the family, or inexplicably scheduling extra rendez-vous en route.

Honestly, who is going to enjoy a 3 hour meet-up in the middle of a 5 hour car journey.  Make it the 23rd December and find yourself in a town in Gloucestershire picked for its ease of access to the major motorways, in icy temperatures and try to find the Christmas joy!  Enforced conviviality anyone?  Lovely to see you, have missed you enormously, but I can’t feel my fingers as we ice skate – clearly we need to make the most of our time together having fun!

Presents are a minefield too.  Not only does it seem to be my responsibility to suggest every single present, but I also need to figure out the best way to buy and how to have them delivered whilst achieving the minimum disruption for the giver.  Which is why I am now overly familiar with the different delivery fees and import taxes charged to get things to Switzerland.

Of course not every family member is like this, but once you’ve started to ‘help’ some with the present buying it is almost easier to take everything over.  Or risk the – ‘I know you said paperbacks because you’re flying, but I just thought hardbacks are nicer’  conversation as you smile through clenched teeth.

And all this was even before Covid made making travel plans infinitely harder.  Last year we made an early call to stay in Switzerland.  It was the sensible choice, with no-one vaccinated, travelling when we didn’t absolutely need to, seemed to be a little indulgent.  We could be stoic.  The children were briefed on how fun a Swiss Christmas could be, and they relished the prospect of staying in their own home, of there being presents around their own tree and family time without a schedule or motorway service station stop offs.  And it worked.  Everyone had fun, of course we missed grandparents, aunts and uncles, but Christmas was good.

This year we have been braver and planned a return home for Christmas, resigned ourselves to the travelling and complexity of plans, in trade off for hugs and shared times.  We had made it back in the summer and knew Covid would likely give us constraints, but it all seemed doable.  We could keep things restrained.  See only key people, and not plan too much.  But already I’m starting to get twitchy!

And now we are plunged yet again into a world of uncertainty.  Half the children’s presents are already sitting at grandparents’ houses in the UK.  Covid cases in our circle are suddenly appearing and we are looking at a 10 day quarantine when we return to Switzerland.  The careful planning is now hanging in limbo as we decide whether or not to continue our plans or opt for greater certainty and Swiss Christmas the sequel.

What is for the best?  There is no right answer I’m sure of that, if nothing else.  However, the stress and anxiety that this situation creates does not fit at all with a joyful Christmas.  

The speed at which the rules changed has plunged friends into unexpected quarantine, created real fear of not being able to return to Switzerland and made travel abroad akin to completing the ninja warrior course, and I’m really not sure my core is up to it!

Do you have the strength for it?  Are you making new plans?  Are you done with Christmas altogether? Are you worrying about bigger things?

Living abroad certainly has many, many benefits but being far from home with the prospect (yet again) of not knowing when you will see family and friends is hard.  That’s the bottom line.  The situation will improve, I feel positive about that, but with the extra hurdles of borders and distance to manage there is always a definite lag in feeling that improvement.

How is your family feeling?  Are you and your partner in agreement or is that another source of contention?  Are you ready to move on to other things, or resolutely optimistic that all will be well in the end?

Let us know how you are doing?  Perhaps this is stretching your reserves to and beyond their limits.  If so, consider reaching out to us at [email protected] for a chat about the prospect of weekly support.

Or perhaps you want some help with re-making your plans – ask your questions via the HUB forum and our community will share their insights!

The Hub Geneva