When I was growing up, my family lived in many different places. My mother, being the charming and fabulous creature she is, took upon herself the role of hostess/mother/sister/friend to all of my parents' friends and colleagues, many of whom were frequently far from their homes and families. Once we settled down a bit, the open-door tradition continued, particularly during the holiday season. We always hosted 'orphans'' holidays - if you were far from home, or had no family, or didn't get along with them, or were without a place to celebrate for any reason, you were welcome at ours. There was always great food and plenty of wine and bonhomie to go around.
Sometime in the mid-90s, I took over this tradition and began hosting Christmas myself. Sometimes there were only 4 of us around the table; sometimes there were 14. But it was always festive, and stress-free, and fun and comfortable and everything else that holidays should be. Friends, after all, are the family we choose.
Which makes this year a little weird for me. This year is only the second in at least 13 years that Christmas has not been celebrated at my place. No Thanksgiving, either. The only other non-Christmas was the one I spent in Thailand, where Christmas Eve dinner was served to me and my companion in a large bed in an odd place called Bed Bar or somesuch. This year, much of my life is still in boxes and I have no refrigerator, which makes the concept of dinner prep a bit more of a challenge than I'm prepared to deal with. So naturally, it hasn't really felt like Christmas in the way it usually does.
I have been saying lately, "It may not be an easy life, but it's a charmed one." This is bearing itself out once again, as invitations come out of the woodwork from friends all across Europe and the States, offering everything from raucous partying to Scroogey boycotting. I spent last night at a proper Family Christmas, complete with 3 generations and overexcited 3 year olds. Tonight, we're doing it up urban style, with childhood comfort foods in a friend's kitchen. I even got presents, though I didn't get round to buying any (a combination of ridiculous procrastination and nasty cold).
I am extraordinarily touched by all of this, particularly the most local invites. What with all the change and challenges in my life at the moment, it's very nice indeed to find that I have touchstones here, too, in my newly adopted home.
So, to all who invited me and SMSed me and wished me well, I thank you. And to those I won't see, I miss you. And to those I haven't seen in way too long, forgive me. And come round next year. There's plenty of room.