Christmas in the City

There’s no getting away from Christmas.

The traditions that my mother, father and I observed all those years remain special – they reflected who we were as a family – and they were, with slight modifications, the traditions my husband and I observed during the years of our marriage.  Being now without family, and having found that Christmas is the time of year I miss my parents unbearably (despite – or perhaps because of the kindness of friends who have in the past invited me to share their Christmases), I thought that this year I would conduct an experiment – a “Christmas you have without having Christmas”.  You’ll notice the conundrum I’m sure:  because it was Christmas, some observance was necessary!

Initially I had the excellent notion to spend a week or ten days at the meditation centre, but when my helper had to go into hospital for a procedure, the uncertainty of her condition made me think better of that.  Besides, what have been cool, grey, periodically stormy days here in Colombo, have been days of intense rain, with flooding and landslips, ‘upcountry’.  On Christmas day here in Paradise, over a quarter of a million people were classified as “flood affected”;  thirty-four people had died, and nine people were still listed as missing.

In the end, I got onto Agoda, and found two nights at a hotel in the city.  “Christmas without Christmas” would become “Christmas in the City”.  What a treat!  How often do we holiday in our own city?  I could take advantage of deserted streets to at last begin to photograph the city I’ve called ‘home’ all these years.

Sunset wasn’t flashy, but given the circumstances, a positive portent of good weather for Christmas day.

Sunset a portent

Christmas Eve, with the waves running up to the shore just beside us, was idyllic, warm and balmy, as only tropical nights can be.

Xmas Eve Party, Galle Face

On Christmas morning, while I waited for my breakfast – a couple of Mimosas, fresh tropical fruit, and Eggs Florentine – the rhythm of the waves forced me to turn off the beloved Christmas music that was making me too nostalgic for the memories it evoked.  There was a gentle breeze, the sea was calm and that restful grey-green-blue of the sea on a slightly cloudy day.

Grey-green-blue seas

Briefed, Gunaratne and I set out in his snowy white tuk tuk to shoot the city.

Gunarathne and his snowy white tuktuk

It was, as I had thought, possible to stop and pull over almost at will – and there was an unexpected pleasure.  Because it was a public holiday, the people I met were in a holiday mood – there was a lightness and ease of manner that I remembered from my first trip to the island, exactly twenty years ago this month.  One cannot discount the pleasure of shared laughter and open conversation, and I’ve come home from my Christmas in the City holiday remembering why I’ve always been enchanted by the people of Paradise.

I didn’t have time to go through all 445 photographs before dressing for dinner at The Gallery Cafe.  It being Christmas, I dressed up – makeup and ‘high heels’, with my Venetian beads for a touch of drama.

Gallery Cafe - Xmas Night

I ordered a small bottle of Piper Heidsieck (not my favorite champagne, but champagne is my favourite, and I thought a full bottle would be excessive!).  My starter of crab ‘lasagna’ was pleasant, but the pork belly with wasabi and spices was subtle, surprising, and delicious.  Afterwards I took a circuitous route back to the hotel to capture some of the Christmas lights.

What a wonderful day – as Christmas Day should be.

I hope you all had a happy day too, doing whatever it was you chose to do – or not – this Christmas day, 2012.

75 thoughts on “Christmas in the City

    • Thank you Naomi. I think this day may well be a blueprint for Christmases in the future – certainly I know now that ‘alone’ was far from lonely, and so when I go back to Australia I can make some choices about how I spend the day.

    • it was – I particularly enjoyed my conversations with people I met in the street. Now if I were a real photographer, I’d have taken photographs of them, but no matter, I ‘m hopeful I’ll remember them 🙂

    • I had to go and have a look … very swish, in comparison to the old world hotel I chose here, but it was just right for the occasion, Carina, and I’m very happy. Look forward to seeing some of your pictures 🙂

  1. Wanderlust, you are a woman after my own heart. To have a city all to oneself at Christmas is paradise, especially in paradise. Your photographs are beautiful – I hope you will post more: you capture the spirit of the people here so beautifully. Thank you for a most uplifting post.

    • Having the blog to post about it made taking the Christmas shots part of an interesting ‘conversation’ with myself. It was an almost perfect day – that’s for sure and one I’ll long remember because I think it’s set a benchmark for the type of Christmas day I’d like to have from now on, even if I can’t always be exploring in Paradise!

      And, yes, I’ll be posting lots of pictures in coming weeks/months, though some of the ‘conversations’ might be better left till I’ve left.

  2. what a fantastic idea, this is how I had my christmases for years after my mother died.. wonderful shots, I spent christmas on a plane this year and felt no worse for it! Your faces are lovely.. c

  3. You gave yourself the gift of time: time to reflect on Holidays past; time to connect with your fellow man; time to enjoy the moment. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate and honor the spirit of Christmas.
    Happy New Year!
    ps. my fave shots are “grey-green water” and “lightness and ease,” For me, they capture how the day must have felt for you, physically and emotionally.

  4. How perfect! A last Christmas celebration in Paradise in full style. What a wonderful way to say goodby, and have final memories in your mind and in photographs that will bring back happy times on Christmas future. I’m so glad you did this rather than the meditation centre that I think may have been a bit more sombre 🙂 (The Universe arranged your helper’s hospital for this purpose I think…I hope she is ok and doing well now).
    Wonderful, wonderful photos.

    • You’re right, Angeline – I think it all worked out perfectly, in the end, though the credit card statement next month might be a bit of a shock! I keep telling myself if I were in Oz it’d cost me twice as much … 🙂

      But really, I think it was a good investment to have been able to take so many photos, even though there’s still a lot of ‘work’ to do if I’m to make a half decent library to provide me with enough prompts for my book.

    • Isn’t that a wonderful tree? I love it too and am thinking i’ll use it as my Christmas motif next year (IF I do that type of thing next year!).

      I’m slowly catching up Jo – but hope you fared well over your damp English Christmas … 🙂

    • It was almost a perfect balance, I think – the adventuring, that’s for sure, and dinner out. It was only those silly carols at breakfast time that tipped the balance for a moment, but I’ve learned my lesson, and as RoughSeas says, just don’t play them!

    • It was a spectacular day Kiwidutch – a little nod to Christmas, but doing what I love most, exploring and talking to people out in the street, and a little fine dining …

      Yes, she’s back from hospital, and feeling a bit sore and delicate but glad to be ‘home’ instead of in hospital, though she has to go to the clinic every day to have her dressings changed. Poor thing – I know what it’s like not having a Mum to take care of you when you’re crook, so I’m glad she has somewhere to stay. Her village wasn’t flooded, but the roads between her village and the town are all flooded out, so she would have been in a pickle if she’d been in her real home.

  5. I combined the two – christmas without christmas in the city. Which I’m just about to write about but couldn’t resist a peek at yours first with those gorgeous photos.

    I so know what you mean about the music, to the extent that I have stopped playing it at Christmas.

    • Nothing special, Rough Seas? I’m hoping one day to be able to achieve that! The music is a problem, isn’t it? years ago I managed to digitize the old LPs from when I was a kid – all scratchy and a bit wobbly from one Christmas when we went to Canberra and they got buckled in the heat at the back of the car! One of the records has readings of Dylan Thomas, and Dickens, of course. A couple of years ago my ex- sent me a beautiful CD of Christmas with Chanticleer, and I thought this would dilute the nostalgia – but no, it’s still like a switch, and I’m back 55 years …

      I’ll look for your post 🙂

      • As with many things, I think it’s important to decide how you want Christmas (New Year, birthdays whatever) to be what you want it to be – within circumstances. By which I mean, it doesn’t need to be what it once was, and it doesn’t need to be what everyone else does.

        I still have the old records, but there again, I have the old record player to go with them. I made the mistake for quite a few years of playing the carols while decorating the tree. Think I always ended up in tears. There’s no going back. Now I can’t bring myself to throw them out, but I can’t play them either!!

        • Ummm – I think digitizing them was the problem.

          You’re right about reinventing the yardstick occasions – I think there’ll be a lot of that happening when I go back home to Oz. With nobody to please, and nobody to piss off, that’ll be the ideal time. Now, that’a something to look forward to. 🙂

  6. Looks like a beautiful Christmas, Meredith. I’m glad you pampered yourself. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all for me; I should have done what you did! I’m considering Sri Lanka as one of my destinations IF I get a semester break around Jan. 19…. I’ll let you know. Happy holidays!

    • Oh please do, Cat! But check and see about availability – it’s THE SEASON, and things can get a big booked up, especially in the more remote and popular destinations. You could stay here but that’s a bit like going to America and staying with friends on Long Island – interesting for a night, but the rest of the country is ‘out there’!

      • Oh dear, Meredith! I hope it doesn’t get totally booked. The problem is that the university won’t tell us till the last minute whether we get that week off or not. It’s so irritating because then we can’t plan till the last minute. I’ve been doing research and getting prepared, but all will depend on flight prices at the time I can finally book!! If Sri Lanka has the best price, there I’ll want to go! I’m also debating between Kathmandu, Morocco, Prague and Zanzibar…. Thanks for the offer, but I wouldn’t want to impose! It would be nice to meet you though, if I go! 🙂

        • My goodness, what a handful of exotic locations to choose from – and how nerve-racking to have to wait to see if you get the time off or not – I suppose it’s a bit like them actually seeing the moon before they’ll declare Hajj?

          With just a week you’ve got a lot of travelling to do and remember we only have that 97km of highway – mostly you’d need to ‘budget’ at around 50km/hour when you’re planning an itinerary. As to accommodation – during the season I wouldn’t book my airfare till I was sure of a few places to stay otherwise you might find yourself having to camp in a dump of a place, or pay above the odds – I’m sorry to bring this up, but I so want you to enjoy your trip here and the nitty gritty things can spoil it so easily!

          It’d be great to meet up if you come – please let me know when you know 🙂

  7. What an utterly lovely way to spend the special day, Meredith! I am coming your way as well in the middle of January. Someone recommended Mirissa beach as far as where to stay – I would love to know your opinion? Somewhere not too crowded/touristy but with great views. More on the laid-back side but convenient to get to?

    • Mirissa’s a pretty good be at this time of yeart, Tahira – I guess you’ve only got a week or so and want to spend it at the beach? Avoid the West Coast beaches – they look beautiful but the water’s treacherous, except for Hikkatuwa, and I don’t think that’s your scene.

      Do get in touch if you have time passing through Colombo – it’d be great to meet up for a drink or something 🙂

      • Thanks for the helpful information, Meredith. Yes, for one week and I’m looking forward to some relaxing beach time. I think I’ll go with Mirissa.

        I will most definitely get in touch – I’d love to meet up for a drink! I have no itinerary except to chill out so meeting up in Colombo would be great!

  8. Sounds, and looks, perfect to me and champagne is always such a delightful companion! Seasons greetings and Happy New Year wishes to you Meredith, and what a wonderful memory for you to take into your new years ahead!

  9. So glad your Christmas plans turned out as well as they did Meredith. We got to see more of Paradise in the bargain 🙂
    We booked ourselves into a nearby hotel for a night several years ago, during a cyclone. The power lines were down, our pump had packed up with not a drop of water in the tank and the streets were flooding fast. Everyone thought we were crazy, but we spent a wonderful day and night watching movies in our air conditioned room! Your post makes me want to do it all over again, just for the heck of it 🙂

    • How sensible, Madhu – I think a hotel would be an especially safe place to be during a big storm, and a mini-holiday into the bargain!

      It really was a great Christmas, and I was thrilled with the places I managed to photograph – with such ease and enjoyment. The tree – ain’t it wonderful!

  10. a perfect city christmas, with treats and conversations, and being able to photograph the city while it is quiet …. beautiful photos, your love of paradise shows in spades …. wonderful idea to experiment in patterns for christmas, since it is such a huge marker in our culture we can hardly miss it … for many years we went camping in a remote coastal national park, just to avoid shops, family tensions etc … it was marvellous 🙂

    • You made me laugh a little Christine: family tensions … I remember those now you mention them – funny how the brain chooses to forget things like that when the family’s gone! But the bedlam in the shops – boy, I don’t miss that! Or the month of schmaltzy Christmas muzac that seemed to follow me everywhere I went – I don’t miss that either. There are a couple of shops here that have a touch of each, but I can choose whether or not to go there – and you can be sure I chose not to anywhere in their vicinity!

      I can see how camping in the bush must have been a blissful alternative, drawing your little family together to co-operate on tasks, and to entertain each other at night.

    • Was it dire? Didn’t the southerly arrive in time?

      But then, you’ll be feeling Florence-deprived so no matter where you were – other than Italy – will have been a bit of a letdown.

      I had a wonderful day, and now today, I’ve had a bit of a spin around Italy, and that was great too 🙂

  11. When we can’t have the Christmas’s we remember we innovate – good on you and you got more great photos and, better, more warm memories to wrap yourself in. Merry belated Christmas my blogger friend – may 2013 be bountiful and the uprooting go smoothly, may you land on both feet and hit the road running ;).

  12. Sounds like you had a magical Christmas!

    Today may there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
    May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.
    May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.
    May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

    Sending you every good wish for 2013. Thank you for all your encouragement, support and for being one of my top commenters during the past year.

    May all your hopes and dreams have wings.
    Marianne x

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