The In-Between Days
It’s 5 degrees outside, and the Santa babushka dolls have disappeared. The advent calendars, much to my daughter’s chagrin, have been packed up, and the extremely sweet candle I bought to scent the air with Christmas cosiness reached the end of its wick last night. There is a bit of Christmas cake left in the fridge, and the tree is still standing, decorated, but otherwise, the season is halfway out the door.
It was a lovely Christmas, mild and sunny, full of chocolate and biscuits and Christmas songs every single day. Die Lüdde may have been too young this year for Santa and the magic around him, but she danced to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer like there is no tomorrow, and never met a Pfeffernuss she didn’t like. Next year, she’ll be wiser to the red man in the suit, and we might be able to make a Knusperhaus without too much chaos. But there is plenty of time to grow up; for now, unwrapping lift-the-flap books, and trying her luck asking for a marzipan heart, and Rudolph on repeat were magic enough.
For my part, I oscillated between being filled with the magic of Christmas – and the accompanying food – and missing my family and my country accutely. It is a hard time of the year to be apart from family, even when one is so very fortunate to have family to spend the days with. Missing one does not negate gratefulness for the other; it simply creates a special type of tension that comes to characterise the experience of living as a foreigner. Christmas, to my mind, will forever be linked with hot weather and loud cicadas and louder relatives, a 12 hour Christmas lunch, paper hats from Christmas crackers, drunk charades, Boxing Day cricket tests and leftover ham. That isn’t to say I don’t love Christmas here; it is simply to say I will always feel a pull towards Australia at this time of year, more profoundly than any other time. And that, as much as I understand and enjoy the notion of Gemütlichkeit and think Glühwein is a truly wondrous thing, the Christmas I know – the one given to me and cultivated over 25 years – is one spent with bare feet and cold wine. What we see and have as children, creates the natural nostalgia that comes with Christmas as an adult. We never regain that sense of pure, boundless magic, once we grow out of it, and for good reason; there are certain things that belong to children. But we do take the remants of Christmas magic into adulthood, and it fills the season with a sweet nostalgia that never quite goes away.
So now, to look ahead. We are in the in-between days, as the Germans call them*, those quiet days after Christmas and before the new year begins. (I like the in-between days. They are always so relaxed, like the world has a slight hangover and no one really feels like doing anything much. And I love new years. God I love new years, with their promises and unknowns.) The mildness we ate our Christmas dinners in has fled, and by the time 2016 dawns, it will be 0 degrees during the day. It will be -2 by week’s end. Those who spent Christmas tut tutting about the non Christmassy weather, will get their snow, and those of us who have been silently praying all month that snow won’t come, will burrow further into the couch and insist on it being unhealthy to leave the house.
The Winterschlaf continues.
(I should clarify, the Germs technically call these days ‘between the years’ days, but I think ‘in-between days’ has a better ring to it. So I used a little creative licence!)