Pam Longe is a lovely friend. We used to go to the same church in Dublin. Pam is Australian and is living back there now, but she has fond memories of Christmas in Ireland. A very different experience…
Here are her memories of her first Christmas in Ireland…
Christmas with a Difference by Pam Longe
My name is Pam and from 2007 to 2009 my husband and I lived in Dublin, Ireland. It was a wonderful experience, despite it being so far from home – Australia. We loved travelling and experiencing everything Irish. As Ibn Battuta said ‘Travelling will leave you speechless, then it will turn you into a storyteller’ So I’ve been writing of my experiences since.
Maybe it’s the Northern Hemisphere influence, but growing up, most of our Christmas cards were snowy Christmas scenes, with carollers rugged up against the cold, carrying lanterns to light their way. Santa was often seen squeezing down a chimney while the reindeer waited patiently on a snow-encrusted roof.
It’s our first Christmas in Ireland and we hope against hope it will snow and we will experience a Christmas of our childhood dreams. The forecast isn’t promising though. We want to make our Christmas here special, as we are aware just how far we are from family and friends at a time traditionally known as a ‘family time’.
In November we decided to make Christmas cards to send to everyone back home. We headed into the gorgeous gardens at Merrion Square, armed with a few Christmas decorations. We found a lovely blue spruce tree and hung a few red baubles on it. We set up the camera on the tripod with the time delay and took some photos of us posing with the tree. We rug up, I’m in my lovely European red coat and Murray has a thick scarf around his neck.
After we have our photos printed, I am happy to spend time indoors as the days are now very cold. I create our cards and have many trips across to the An Post office to mail off our creations to Australia.
We are only too aware of the emotional slump we could find ourselves in being alone at Christmas, so we hatch plans with an Aussie friend who lives in Oxford. Where can we be guaranteed snow? She has a friend in Sweden, but we’d have to hire a car and cram in with people we don’t know. Austria is always snowy at Christmas, but as we figure most things will be shut and it could be fairly quiet. Eventually Jen decides to come to Dublin and the plans are made.
She brings her contribution – a Fortnum and Mason plum pudding, and I have secured a brandy sauce that is guaranteed to ensure a very merry Christmas! Turkey and vegetables are purchased, as well as champagne. We buy red placemats and a decorative candle, as well as a small Christmas tree. I decide it needs lights, as the days are so short and I enjoy switching the lights on at 4pm every afternoon and thinking they probably bring some cheer to the office workers across from our balcony window.
We spend the days leading up to Christmas just soaking up the atmosphere. The shops in our village have Christmas trees out the front, with lights and the French Paradox, the exclusive wine shop, has one decorated very creatively with wine glasses and lights. The houses all have wreaths on their doors, many with tiny white lights which look wonderful in the gloomy afternoons. Many houses have fairy lights in the bare trees in the gardens. We take a trip into Grafton Street to photograph the Christmas lights. Despite tights, jeans, boots, gloves, hats and coats we are chilled to the bone after an hour. It is two degrees.
Christmas Eve is very dead in Ireland. A lot of people seem to go ‘home’ for Christmas, which means driving to their families who live in the country, for their traditional Christmas feasts. Needing to get out, the three of us head over to the Herbert Park Hotel for a drink and share a cheese platter and enjoy catching up on news of our families and life over the past year, and planning our next trip together. We watch families in the lounge of the hotel; children giddy with pre-Christmas excitement, and find ourselves caught up in it all.
Christmas morning we sleep in and then drag ourselves out of bed to ring our families back home as they are watching Carols by Candlelight – a family tradition. We have some croissants and coffee and open our presents with the camera clicking away. My mum has thoughtfully sent presents for Jenny too.
We scan the skyline – clouds, but no rain or snow – so no white Christmas for us, but we are warm and snug inside our apartment and the turkey is starting to smell very nice as it roasts in the oven.
We eventually sit down to an impressive lunch about 1pm and toast our friendship and our families, far away.
What is it about a hot roast lunch that makes you feel so full and sleepy? We succumb to our stupor and all have a nap, deciding we are too full to eat more and will ‘split’ our meal and have the pudding for dinner.
After more calls back home, we realise we have actually talked with more relatives at Christmas this year than when we are home. Jenny has also bought some DVD’s to watch, so armed with our pudding and intoxicating brandy custard, we decided to watch Mamma Mia. We have had a few champagnes by this stage and think, what the heck, it’s Christmas, so we decide to play the ‘sing along version’. Jenny can sing, but has had a cold. I think I can sing, and have been coughing for four weeks already. Murray can’t sing and admits it, but we don’t let it stop us. Pierce Brosnan can’t sing either we discover! We sing along at the tops of our voices, between mouthfuls of pudding, and agree the custard just might go off if we leave it, so we’d better finish it off.
We make a last couple of phone calls to those who are just putting their turkey in the oven back home, and decide to call it a day and head off to bed. We are off to the cinema tomorrow to see – what else? – Australia!!
We agree there is nothing quite like a Northern Hemisphere Christmas and there is nothing like spending Christmas with good friends when you can’t be with your family.