Not home for the holidays

What was your most memorable holiday away? Members of Salon's community, Table Talk, share their memories this week.

By Salon Staff

Published December 21, 2007 11:33AM (EST)

Home and Away

The Most Interesting Place You Spent Christmas

Fred Johns -- 03:53 am Pacific Time -- Dec 18, 2007 -- #1 of 22

I thought it might be interesting to ask where the most interesting place you ever spent Christmas was. I have a friend of a friend who spent Christmas in jail. He said it was interesting, but kind of a sad day. I know another person who spent Christmas volunteering in a war zone.

What's the most interesting place you ever spent Christmas? What made it interesting and did it still feel like Christmas?

thatsheila -- 06:07 am Pacific Time -- Dec 18, 2007 -- #3 of 22

I spent my first Christmas away from home in Japan, when I was 16, as an exchange student. I had broken my collarbone a few weeks previously, and on Christmas Eve I visited the doctor, who told me the bone would never completely straighten. I was totally bummed about that, and then had to go to a Rotary function with my host family.

On Christmas morning, I went to judo practice (just to watch, I did that during my whole injury period) and was very disappointed because the boy on whom I had my first serious crush was not there.

Then, on Christmas night, my 19YO host sister and her friends took me to see Christmas fireworks (only in Japan!) and then we came home and had a party and I got drunk for the first time in my life. Memories!

The second time I spent Christmas away from home was right after college, when I was in Turkmenistan with Peace Corps. I have absolutely no memory of Christmas itself, but I well remember New Year's Eve 2000, which in the post-Soviet world is identical to Christmas. My (ethnic Russian) host family had a Christmas tree in the apartment, we dressed up and had a big family dinner, we all gave each other gifts, and we watched Boris Yeltsin resign on television.

Then I went to an ethnic Turkmen friend's house, where we ate another big meal, and watched a Bollywood film. In the morning, we walked around our city and took photographs of ourselves in front of Soviet monuments -- with, seemingly, everyone else who lived in our city.

comixchik -- 11:26 am Pacific Time -- Dec 18, 2007 -- #6 of 22

A hospital emergency room. No, I was working, not being treated. Rather festive, actually. The staff recognized that no one really wanted to be there, and did their best to be as cheery as appropriate.

Besides, generally by Christmas night the wave of holiday suicides are over, so that helps.

Bouteloua -- 04:37 pm Pacific Time -- Dec 18, 2007 -- #10 of 22

Eleuthera. At that moment, I began the process of pulling my children away from the materialistic marketing, guilt-laden, plastic geegaw mess that the holiday has become. They got pencils and one of the world's most perfect beaches and Bahamian waves for Christmas that year.

Guess which Christmas they remember most now that they are almost grown? And guess what they would like to replicate in their own lives?

Quandong -- 05:25 pm Pacific Time -- Dec 18, 2007 -- #12 of 22

Most of my Christmases as a kid were spent eating a "traditional" Christmas dinner of turkey and pudding in a stinking hot shed in the middle of the Australian outback -- which would be interesting to anyone who wasn't born Australian and didn't mind 45-degree (113 F) days.

The best and most interesting Christmas Day I spent was in the middle of a trek in Torres del Paine in the Padagonian Andes, camped by the beautiful Glacier Grey. There were only about 8 of us at the site but we sang carols around the cooking stove and one British guy had brought a tiny Christmas pudding, which he split up into 8 pieces so we each had a teaspoon full of pudding to go with our split pea and dehydrated potato Christmas stew. Oh and the Beloved gave me socks that he had brought all the way from the markets back in town.

foggyone -- 10:19 am Pacific Time -- Dec 19, 2007 -- #19 of 22

Back in the late '70s, I got sent by my company to pick up a new airplane at the factory in Florida and fly it back to California. Long story on the trip short, I ran into icing over Fort Stockton, Texas, when an upper layer of clouds opened up with freezing rain.

I iced up pretty bad pretty fast, and called Air Traffic Control for an approach to Fort Stockton, and made it in OK. And parked the airplane in a hangar to thaw out.

And headed for the Ramada Inn, which had rooms, but no restaurant cuz it was closed for Christmas, it now being Christmas Eve. So it was down to the truck stop at the other end of town for food.

Until the next morning, when the Ramada had to reopen the kitchen cuz of all the folks who'd had to get off the highway cuz of the freezing rain. I don't remember what the Christmas dinner was, but it was pretty much clean-out-the-pantry stuff.

But all those stranded people, despite not being able to get to wherever they had planned to celebrate Chrismas, managed to have a very nice time, much in the spirit of what I've always imagined Christmas should be like (not being Christian, I wasn't sure until then).

canuckmer -- 05:53 am Pacific Time -- Dec 20, 2007 -- #20 of 22

I spent a Christmas in an isolated village in Java, Indonesia -- all Muslim, and we were a group of youth. We roasted a tough little chicken and had a feast of fruit and so on. We decorated a couple of palm leaves and exchanged gifts. It was weird and felt nothing like Christmas. I wish we'd just done something less "Christmas-y" but still fun to celebrate the day instead. Plus it was a way to make us seem weirder and more different vs. the rest of the village. I think we should have just hosted a little party for everyone instead. Although all 1,500 in the village would have shown up ... ah, well.

I spent a lovely, lovely Christmas in Yorkshire once, with a very loving, happy family (kids all in college) -- the kind of family where they make their own bread in an Aga and whoever is around just does the next step in the bread-making, and the house was really old and drafty and gorgeous, and it was in the countryside so we had to pile wood. We even stood around the piano and sang Christmas carols. Such great memories.

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