Today's Christmas story is hard to pin down location-wise. As most of the stories so far, families no longer live close to where they grew up or where their parents are from. Most couples have different backgrounds and their families are scattered around the globe - the same for Filipa, her husband and her 8 month old daughter Alice May.
Originally Filipa is from Portugal, but she lived already all over the globe, currently she lives, works and raises her daughter in Brooklyn, New York.
I met Filipa in 2010 in Laos - we were both young expat wives! She is a smart, strong, energetic woman with whom it just fun to hang out or get your nails done in any colour of the rainbow!
Here is her story...
Tell me about your personal BEST-OF the Holiday season?
When I was younger we would get together with my family in Portugal on Christmas Eve and eat all our usual Christmas dishes such as Bacalhau, Fatias Douradas, Farofias and Bolo Rei. I would spend the time playing with my cousins or my stepbrothers and stepsister (depending on which branch of the family we were spending Christmas with) but always waiting impatiently to open our presents under the heavily decorated tree! Sometimes we would sing or I would play the violin (quite poorly to be honest but my family seemed to love it!) We never made it to midnight because we would be too tired by then! I remember one year my mom and stepdad got dressed up as en elf (my mom’s hands, my stepfather’s hands were the feet, ie. inside the shoes, and it would be my stepdad doing the talking) and they told us the story of Christmas. Even after all these years I still remember that!
How do you celebrate the holidays?
Nowadays it’s more complicated as we live far from our families so we try to fly back to see them for the holidays but it’s always very stressful. We usually end up doing Christmas with my husband’s family in Belgium since he has a bigger family than me and then we go to Luxembourg to spend Christmas Day with his father and afterwards we fly to Portugal to spend New Year’s with my mother and grandfather, like I said, very stressful and we always end up needing more vacation afterwards!
How do they celebrate the holidays differently where you live now than when you grew up?
Since we don’t spend Christmas at home it’s been now 4 years since I’ve put a Christmas tree, I miss the joy of it and hope to start again next year when Alice will start to understand what Christmas is. I’ve learnt to adopt the Belgian way of celebrating Christmas but I still miss my Portuguese traditions and will be starting them again next year for Alice. Before when I was little we used to prepare the manger for baby Jesus (which is strange because my parents weren’t religious) and we had a huge tree that touched the ceiling (we have fake trees in Portugal, no real ones unfortunately) and each kid would get to decorate a section of it, although my mom abandoned that plan when we got older and we started to have more stylish looking trees!
Do you create any new traditions with your partner and kids?
I guess we combine them. My husband celebrates St. Nicholas so he’ll have to do something for Alice whereas we both celebrate Christmas Eve. I still make Fatias Douradas ( "Golden slices" - a Portugese version of a french toast coated in sugar and cinnamon) when we are home and we still open our presents on December 24.
Do you plan any kids specials for the holidays ?
Alice is still too little to know what is going on but I hope in the future to make the holiday as special for her as it was for me growing up. Christmas is a very important occasion for me not just for what it is but also because I lost my father at Christmas which makes it always also a sad occasion so I try to compensate by making it as merry as possible.
May I have a sneak preview of your tree ?
No tree this year but I was able to take Alice to see Santa!
What do your kids wish for from Santa ?
Alice is probably wishing for as much plastic and magazine paper as she can get her hands on, she really loves the sounds these too make!
... and what do YOU wish for ?
I wish for a nice warm bath without worrying if Alice will cry while she sleeps and for some time to relax and sleep myself…Yay for grandparents on both fronts!
Thank you Filipa and I can't wait to see you next week in Luxembourg! Safe trip!