Home for the Holidays

We had a whirl-wind three weeks back in the States over the holidays — we stayed with my in-laws in Kentucky, plus my parents drove up from Missouri, and we drove to Indianapolis to see my grandma, aunts and uncles. We saw just about everyone, opened tons of gifts (Liam gets double for Christmas and his birthday), ate so much junk food (cookies and pies, plus all the fast food we’d been craving that we can’t get in Greece) and now we’re finally back home. On the plane ride over, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Athens being home. Almost one year in, and it still feels like a foreign country. It probably always will. But while the city still feels like a place we don’t quite belong, our house does feel like home. The kids missed their toys (Santa brought a bunch of new ones while we were away!) and we all missed sleeping in our own beds. I also missed our heated floors.

This was our first trip back home at Christmas time, and it will likely be our last. Thankfully we didn’t hit any bumps in our travel, but winter is a notoriously terribly time of year to fly. Add to that all of the extra luggage we had to bring for bulky winter clothes, then the two new suitcases we bought just to accommodate all the presents, and we still had to mail back a sizeable package of things that wouldn’t fit. Carrying coats and taking out all our new tablets through three sets of security screenings…yeah, I’m still not sure why it’s necessary to LEAVE the terminal and go back in if you’ve got an international layover in Chicago and Vienna. We also discovered there are no direct flights to the States from Athens in the winter, hence the two layovers both coming here last winter and going back this winter. We’ve got two more trips back to the States planned in the next three years, and both will be in the summer.

Random Observations: Holiday Edition

Christmas is upon us, and with it comes a whole host of interesting cultural differences I’ve observed between the US and Greece. Here are the ones I’ve noticed this year:

  • Typically in the US you’ll see the stores trot out their Christmas merch right around Thanksgiving, though they won’t get into full swing until Black Friday. But without those Halloween and Thanksgiving buffers, here in Greece you’ll start seeing red and green about mid-October. I remember seeing a pretty sizeable Halloween display at Jumbo, but next to it was the burgeoning Christmas décor, which completely took over on November 1st.
  • Greeks have seriously no tolerance for cold. If temperatures dip down below 60 (that’s Fahrenheit), they bust out the winter coats, scarves and hats. I’ve been chastised many-a-time for not bundling up my children enough for the “blustering” cold. You’ll oftentimes see children at the playground dressed like Randy from A Christmas Story. “I can’t put my arms down!”
  • Greeks collect for the needy this time of year, but you won’t find the Salvation Army Santas ringing their bells in front of all the stores like you do in the US. Something about those ringing bells always signals Christmas time for me. It’s strange not to hear them.
  • Another auditory difference: no 24-hour Christmas music radio stations in Greece. This might actually be a good thing.
  • One commonality, though, are copious amounts of Christmas lights along the avenues. Along the main drag downtown you’ll see shooting stars and Christmas tree shapes hanging from all the lamp posts. There are also numerous tree lots, so I’m hoping I can get a real tree next year when we stay in town for Christmas.
  • And while it can get cold enough to snow here, it rarely does. So much for that White Christmas!

O Christmas Tree

This will be our first and last Christmas trip back home while we’re in Greece, so I decided it best not to mess with putting up a tree this year. Instead I bought some green poster board and colorful construction paper from Jumbo, and viola!

20161207_132430219_ios

This little set up works out well for our curious toddler, as well. Plus, the landlord wants to refinish the living room floor while we’re away, so now we don’t have to worry about what to do with the tree. Perhaps next year we’ll spring for a real tree. But this works very well in the meantime.