What does Christmas mean to you? – Part 3

by michelle anne richardson

Oh wow! What a great response, there’s so much to be thankful for this Christmas. If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2, click on the links. If you like what you see and read, I would be ever so grateful if you spread the joy by sharing it with your friends and on your social media accounts.

It’s getting cold, but it is also getting so much more magical – we just celebrated the Christmas Vernissage at my daughter’s school and though they sing the same carols every year, what’s amazing is that the whole school – students, teachers, and the parents all sing together! It’s getting Christmas-y and how!

In this part, we discover more women, their Christmas traditions and their life lessons. Each of them is amazing and I am so thankful to them for opening their heart for this article.

Nayana Bhattacharya, Zurich

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Christmas has always been a time of joy for my family and I. I don’t remember how we celebrated Christmas before 1990 but I remember every Christmas since then. We moved to Cambridge when I was 5 and that first Christmas would have been a lonely one had it not been for a slew of office parties that my father was allowed to bring my mum and me to. I still remember the beautiful white frosting of the Christmas cake, the little fondant figures that perched on top and the book that ‘Father Christmas’ (Baba’s colleague) gave me. It was about a mischievous grandmother and it was the perfect present to give to a 5-year-old girl who was desperately missing her’s. From then on, Christmas has been- for me- a time when I could comfortably knit both my cultures together. My English aunt – with whom we spent our first few British Christmases – put on the most splendid feast.  Crackers were burst, party hats were worn and ‘The Snowman’ watched. Little bowls of dried fruits and Cadbury’s Roses were secreted around the chintziest decor known to humankind. It was perfect and if I’m to be very honest, it’s the atmosphere that I strive to create now. I make a tandoori roast and a ‘Calcutta fruit cake’. I haunt ‘The English Bookshop’ for authentic Christmas crackers and I spend a fortune in mince pies (because I never learned to make them). We watch ‘The Snowman’ on loop, with ‘Father Christmas’ coming in as a close second as a Christmas favorite, we put up our ‘Bookmas’ tree on the 1st of December, we play carols, we eat chocolate, we set up the nativity and we do everything we can to make the magic last.  I haven’t persuaded anyone else in my family to participate in my love for Christmas jumpers (think Bridget Jones, now think Colin Firth in Bridget Jones) but I have hope. When it comes to my love for Christmas I’m unapologetic. 

As it happens, being comfortably and confidently unapologetic is one of the things I’ve learned to be in 2019. Now, to be clear, this does not mean I swagger about with an attitude after having made a mess of things. I have a natural propensity to make a mess of things so there are many occasions where I am apologizing (and meaning it). I’m no longer holding out for perfection. Rather than focusing only on what went wrong, I’m also focusing on what went right. I’m listening to my inner voice, I’m standing up for me and mine, I’m learning how to be kind to myself. I am becoming increasingly forthright with my opinions while being comfortable enough to face rejection on the basis of those. 

I’ve learned to negotiate unfamiliar spaces and stride in. 2019 is the year when I finally started my own creative writing club for children, my own YA book club, I’m finally doing the creative storytelling that I love so much and I’m finally -slowly but surely – crafting a newsletter for children of Indian or South Asian origin living and learning in Switzerland because I truly believe that diversity is important, integration is a two-way street and that representation matters. 2019 is also the year that I finally had my work published- a short story – on a topic that I’m passionate about. In all respects and on all fronts I’ve taken what only looks like ‘baby steps’ but in 2019, I have the confidence to share that with you, I’m unapologetic about the baby steps that I’m taking towards fulfilling my personal and professional goals and I’m no longer holding out for perfection. 

You can follow Nayana’s journey on IG here and follow her newsletter by liking the FB page – ‘The IndoSwiss Kids’ Chronicle’.

Ariane Leanza Heinz, Zurich

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As a vocal coach, music is a part of our tradition, I bring a keyboard wherever we celebrate and we sing Christmas Carols. My 3 daughters are amazing singers and we bring everyone with us in the joy of singing. We also decorate the house and bake cookies. We are not religious, but we love spending time together and doing good deeds by spreading kindness.

This year was the year of expansion for me, I reached almost all my goals, 1 left to go, so let’s see if I can reach it by serving others with my heart and love of what I do. The one thing I continue to learn is to always listen to my intuition! Even if it’s uncomfortable!

Find out what Ariana does here.

Annahita de la Mare, Zurich

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Christmas is the ONLY guaranteed time of the year where everyone in my family stays at the same house for two whole days. Sometimes that is a good thing…and sometimes it is not 😉

My one learning from this year: If you made a new start at the beginning of 2019, you may be disappointed with what you have achieved as year one comes to an end. But don’t be. Remember that the route to achieving every big goal is long. It is a marathon, not a sprint. And just by setting off from the starting line, you’ve done AMAZING. Take a break at Christmas. Start 2020 fresh. Keep working hard.

Annahita is the owner of MDLM books which produces picture books with inspiring female lead characters

Jenya Lavicka, Basel

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It’s a time to slow down. Time for family hugs. Time to bake ginger cookies & eat them with warm tea or hot chocolate. It’s time to watch Christmas films & get into the festive mood. Now that my father-in-law left this world a bit unexpectedly and too soon, we cherish the family moments together more than ever before. I even asked both parents to come and visit us from Ukraine around Christmas. I look forward to this family time with our kiddies & parents. 

In this world of perfectionism, constant improvement and self-criticism my learning was to say “I am enough”. I’m a good enough mother. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Marketing expert. NGO President. Project leader. And even if something doesn’t work well, it doesn’t make me a lesser person in the areas mentioned above. This world is giving you enough criticism, so be kind to yourself, Jenya.

Jenya runs “I’ll do it myself busy books” which creates handmade products that help your children.

Katia Mikhailova, Geneva

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Christmas for me is family gatherings, traditional food, snow and spoiling my loved ones.

Thank you for asking me this question, it was wonderful to review the year before the year-end because I still have a few weeks to add into what is important to me. This year I am continuing to slow down and look inward and I started to get the idea of being in the flow. This is actually exciting for me, as I am naturally inclined to ‘do’ and make it happen instead of ‘be’ and let it unfold. Being in the flow requires to let the inner child come out and play, to foster spontaneity and to be less resistant to what IS. It’s another way to seeing life and it’s fresh and exciting.

Katia is a Wellness Movement practitioner from Geneva, Switzerland.

Pranshul Awasthi, Basel

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Christmas, according to me is the most magical time of the year as it allows us to let that inner child out and wander in a fairytale-like setting.  This Christmas is quite special to me, I see my entire family after a whole year with a new addition, my husband. It would just be better to eat the dry fruit cake my mamma bakes and the little games we play by the beach watching the sun go down. My family in Muscat eagerly awaits my arrival. This is also my first European Christmas so I am thoroughly soaked into the spirit of the holiday!

This year has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride for me. I got married to the love of my life (after we dated for 7 long years), resigned from my job in India and moved in with him crossing all borders. While moving to Switzerland was a fairytale for me, just 2 months of being home filled my mind with self-doubt. I have always been an ambitious girl, a couple of job rejections and my mind was filled with negativity. This was the time when I decided to step back and introspect; I was trying to compete in a mad race and in the process forgetting to enjoy the little moments that brought me joy. I decided to find a balance; I started building on my skills, learning the local language and enjoyed my time outdoors in this beautiful country. And as they say, you attract your thought, in a month’s time I landed my dream job. I have started to feel that everything you wish for is actually inside us, optimism and self-love are critical.

You can follow Pranshul on her IG here.

What are some of your family traditions around Christmas? Is there something you learned this year which you would like to share with the world? I would love to hear all about it in my comments section.

It’s Christmas time, let’s spread some cheer and lift each other up!

Stay tuned for Part 4!

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