Much to my parents’ dismay (or delight, depending upon when you ask them), I have been living out of the country for around two out of the past two and a half years. It’s been a fantastic experience: I’ve country-hopped around most of Europe, made amazing new friends, tried some good (and some weird) new foods, and learned to order beer in about six different languages. The important things.
It also means that I’ve missed a lot at home. Specifically, I’ve missed the New York City holiday season three times in a row. This has been both a blessing and a curse, in some ways. The NYC holiday season is amazing, cozy, and beautifully cold (usually). But it’s also one of the most frustrating times of year: walking through midtown is virtually impossible, and there are more tourists in town than there are residents, all of whom seem to be waiting for a scene from “You’ve Got Mail” to burst out right in front of them.
On the plus side, I’ve been able to experience the holidays in a whole new way. In order, I’ve spent the time leading up to the holidays in the Netherlands, Sweden, and England, and have spent the holidays themselves in Germany, Germany/Denmark, and England. Each season has been incredibly satisfying – full of mulled wine, friends, cozy evenings with too much dessert, movie marathons, and competitive cookie baking. And yet sometimes I still can’t help but wonder what I’m missing at home.
But to be honest, I have no right to complain. I’m spending this year in the glorified academic bubble of Cambridge, England and have virtually no chance of being hungry this holiday season (though I did almost forget to do my grocery shopping before the entire city shut down for 48 hours). I have a cozy room (with a back-breaking spring mattress), an endless supply of tea and movies, and am in the process of knitting a scarf that will keep me busy for the next several weeks. In several days I will head up to Edinburgh where I will meet with a few friends to celebrate the New Year.
As we know, many people don’t share my luck. Many people, both in the US and abroad, will spend this season trying to decide if they can forgo a part of their holiday dinner in order to afford presents for the kids. For many, the idea of celebrating the New Year is a laughable luxury: why spend a night getting drunk on champagne and popping fireworks when that could be time spent working or catching up on sleep? Life for many people is a game of survival, not celebration.
We’ve past the harvest season already (though from what I hear of the weather back home, the plans might start blossoming again soon – or they might freeze), but that doesn’t mean that it’s too late to donate to a local food pantry and to help a needy family in the new year. While you’re doing your shopping for your New Years Eve event, pick up a few extra things: maybe winter vegetables, some thick bread, a bottle of champagne (but shhhh, I didn’t suggest that). Have a peek at AmpleHarvest.org on your smartphone and make a quick stop on your way home. Hopefully a deserving family will be able to bring in the new year feeling satiated with hope