My month in the US ended with an evening flight on Christmas Day. I chose this timing because it was hundreds of dollars cheaper than flying before Christmas, and my family were all catching up after Christmas anyway. What it really meant, though, was that I got to celebrate Christmas TWICE – on two different continents. I know it’s nearly a month late, but here are a few thoughts on my double Christmas.
I went to Christmas Eve service with the Westbergs, a family I knew in Beijing who hosted me in San Diego. They warmly welcomed to be part of their family Christmas celebration, including me in their traditions and helping me enjoy theirs. I tasted my first eggnog (yummy!) and they even helped me make a “triple jelly” – a dessert from my Dad’s side of the family that tastes like Christmas to me. (A layer of lime jelly, then milk jelly, then strawberry jelly – Christmas colours – all layered in a clear dish so you can see the stripes.) Having asked how my family celebrated Christmas, my friend even sneakily brought a pillow case full of presents for me into my room in the middle of the night!
It was fun to have Christmas with a family. In China I was always invited somewhere for Christmas, but I didn’t do a lot of Christmas mornings. It was a fun and relaxed morning, with lots of wrapping paper happily strewn about, followed by a lovely Christmas lunch.
All too soon, however, it was time for me to leave.I had planned to rent a car to drive myself to LA, but it turned out to be cheaper to hire a private car through a small local company. My lovely driver was from Cyprus originally, but had been in the US one year. He was working hard to improve his English, but it’s hard to attend classes regularly while working the hours of a private driver. We chatted probably half the way to LA – he appreciated the practice, and I enjoyed hearing some of his stories. He has a brother in Turkey and his parents are in Cyprus. His sister and her husband are both pilots based on the East Coast, which helps him get affordable air travel – turned out he’d seen his siblings more recently that I’d seen mine! It was a peaceful end to my travels.
Soon I was at LAX dropping off my bags. I wasn’t sure what the airport would be like on Christmas Day. Turned out to be both quiet and busy! I have never seen such short lines through security in a major airport, but in the small wing of the airport where I was flying from, there were a LOT of people. My flight was fully booked, with dozens of people on standby, and there were several other international flights leaving from the same small area.
The 15 hour flight itself was uneventful (though sleepless), and soon enough I was with my parents, driving to my grandparents’ place for a family reunion/celebration. It was the first time in over eight years that we had all been together – my Mum and her sisters and their families, now including my sisters’ partners. There was a lot of eating and laughing and talking and games. Christmas presents meant even more games to play. I must have played seven or eight different games (and most of those multiple times).
Soon everyone left for home – except me. I stayed a week at my grandparents, partly to get some time with them, and some downtime after a month of travel, and partly to have an internet-less (distraction-less) place to work on the final edits of my book. So even though it came after Christmas, it did feel like I had a real Christmas break – in addition to my lovely whirlwind travel around the US.