A Dad's view 4: Where to spend Christmas
Having started the 'where shall we spend Christmas?' debate early, Tom Dunmore has a surprise that makes him rethink his priorities
Like most kids, I was spellbound by the ceremony of Christmas, entranced by the tinsel, captivated by the chocolate and – most of all – intoxicated by the anticipation of surprise gifts.
But as an adult, my passion waned. I found myself hating the excess and kicking against the traditions. I stopped going home for Christmas. By the time I was 30, things had reached rock bottom: I found myself working on Christmas Day and returning home to eat a sorry nut roast. Scrooge would have been proud.
Fortunately, I was saved by my own ghost of Christmas future – the following year I met my wife-to-be Lise and spent my first Christmas with her family in Norway. It was perfect: deep snow, shining stars, log fires, reindeer – I wouldn't have batted an eyelid if I'd seen elves carrying boxes of wooden toys up from the frozen fjord.
Christmas means a lot to Norwegians – so just imagine how overjoyed my in-laws were last year, as they welcomed their first grandchild to spend it with them. Ava was tiny, far too new to have any conception of what was going on - but the rest of us glimpsed a perfect Norwegian Christmas through the eyes of a child. It was truly wonderful.
But that was last year. Now, as much as I love Norway, I'm also keen for Ava to share the excitement of Christmas with her seven cousins – who all live in England. So Lise and I began debating where to spend our next Christmas – last January.
This isn't your standard familial tug-of-war though.
Norway has so much going for it. I need back up, so look to my parents for help – but with eight grandchildren to occupy them, they are distressingly relaxed about whether or not they see us on the 25th of December. In fact, I'm not even sure they want us there at all.
So, I'm forced to invite myself. Lise isn't keen. The idea of Christmas without snow is appalling to her. Plus, we Brits apparently don't even know which day to celebrate (for Scandinavians, it's all about Christmas Eve).
I point out it will be healthier for Ava to be with other kids, rather than to be dressed as a Christmas fairy by four adults reliving their own childhood. Plus, if we're in England we won't need to worry about running out of anything (by which I mean wine) because the shops don't close for a week. And then I drop the big one: if we stay in England we can have proper, big presents because they won't have to be air-frieghted to Norway and back.
As I dangle the carrot of a big surprise in front of Lise, I'm already thinking about what to buy Ava: a huge box of Lego, a Nintendo Wii, or something equally inappropriate for a one-year-old. Naturally, I keep these plans to myself.
I think I've landed the killer punch, I wait for her to smile in agreement. She doesn't. She says Christmas isn't about presents – it's about being koselig. (Koselig' is Norway's favourite word – it roughly translates as 'cosy', but means so much more: evenings with friends around a blazing fi re, pork ribs, saunas and sheepskin).
Norway is koselig, and Christmas is koselig – therefore Norway is Christmas. Her logic is impeccable. After months of debate, I'm ready to accept defeat. And then something wonderful happens: Lise discovers she is pregnant again. It's the present we've both been waiting for and it makes me realise that it doesn't matter where we spend Christmas – as long as our new little family is together, building our own traditions and wrapping our babies in love.
In any case, being heavily pregnant also means Lise can't fly. Now, where did I put that Lego catalogue?