This past year, our international family became even more international when my husband’s sister married a man from Colombia. When we moved to Ireland in September, the family decided that we would all celebrate Christmas together in Galway this year. The flight was direct, and short, so we anticipated no big problems. Anyone who has not been living in a cave for the past month will know that we were wrong on that front.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I had discussions with my older two girls about whether we would do “American” or “Irish” or “German” Christmas. I was pushing for a little bit of each. The older girls wanted to open presents on the 25th, as is done here in Ireland and in the US. I preferred to open them on the 24th, especially because the grandparents were visiting from Germany. We had finally concluded that we would open the German presents on the 24th and the ones from Oma in America on the 25th. But the bad weather made that decision for us.
The German side of our family was supposed to come in on the 21st. One would think that a less than two hour flight could not be that difficult, but even under the best circumstances, the trip takes 10 hours, what with arriving two hours before the flight and traveling to the airport, then flying, then riding the bus from Dublin to Galway. Unfortunately, my in-laws’ flight ended up being canceled after they had already sat in the Frankfurt airport for approximately five hours. I thought the problems were in Frankfurt, where there was literally a meter of snow. But Germany is somewhat used to snow, and does have the suitable equipment for dealing with it. Snow slows things down in Germany, but the world does not stop. And there has been a lot of snow this season. My family said there was more than a meter of snow outside there door. Public transportation does run, even in the snow. If you can’t drive, there is always the train. But even under those circumstances they ended up dragging their suitcases up the road through the snow after the taxi could not get up the hill.
In the end, after much stress and canceled flights, they were able to reschedule for the 24th, or Heiligabend. There were delays. There were buses stuck in snow. There was waiting on the runway. But finally, after 20 hours, they made it to Galway. When I went to pick them up at 9pm that night, there was freezing fog and we had almost no gas in the car because my husband thought we could get it on the way. Except on Christmas Eve, most gas stations are closed. What a drama! By the time we sat down to our meal of cheese fondue, which is traditional in our family, it was 10pm. The little ones had been taken to bed at 8pm after opening one present. So German Christmas turned into American/Irish Christmas without an argument.
Christmas in Ireland, on the other hand, is usually green, just like most of the other seasons. At least that is what friends and colleagues maintain. Apparently the first year of cold weather was last year. But no one was prepared for the amount of snow that fell this year, or for the cold temperatures that resulted. So much for the Gulf Stream. Driving was nearly impossible. No salt, no grit, not on the country roads. No infrastructure to deal with the roads, at least in the smaller towns. The main roads were dealt with, but outside of the city, you can forget it. My family said the streets of Dublin were still absolutely covered in snow, even the next day. This means the world just about stops. You have to stay home, because you don’t have winter tires and the hills that are not gritted or salted mean you quite possibly can slide right back down them. But our country town looked like a winter wonderland and it made the whole weekend more cozy. We drank our Sekt and ate our Stollen and enjoyed the Plaetzchen that Oma brought over.
And Christmas is still Christmas, no matter whose traditions prevail, old or new.