Friday, December 23, 2011

A Swiss Christmas

Please allow me the indulgence of posting an entry I wrote several years ago.  The vignette below is so special to me, and I hope you will find it to be so as well. 

pictures of switzerland christmasIt was Christmas week, and we were in Switzerland.  My family and I, along with our good friends, Ed and Michele Elliott, and a frozen turkey, traveled there for the holidays.  As we were living in London at the time, we crossed the English Channel on a car ferry and were soon on the way to the Swiss countryside.

Our three sons were not so sure about the plan.  “Were they getting as many gifts?  What kind of Christmas dinner would we have?  What about a tree?”   I was having many of the same thoughts but kept them to myself. 

As we drove higher into the mountains to reach the chalet lent by a friend, small delicate snowflakes danced around our two cars.  Shadows deepened, and lights began to glow in houses nestled here and there in the valleys below.  Magical.  A very good sign.  With darkness settling around the mountains, we arrived at our chalet.  Maybe this adventure would be fine.  These words became my mantra.
The next morning, we four parents and five sons explored the tiny village.  And there, propped in front of a miniature store, was our Christmas tree!  It was short, a little crooked, a bit spare of needles and one of the last ones left.  We thought it was beautiful.  The nine of us trudged along with our treasured tree and promptly set about decorating it.  We popped popcorn and made white garlands with the help of needle and thread.  We did the same with cranberries and wound scarlet sashes round the boughs.

 The boys found pine cones of different sizes and shapes in a sheltered stand of pines near our chalet.  These they tucked between branches of our now festive offering to Christmas, and an aroma of pine drifted through the room.  James, the youngest boy, fashioned a star out of paper and placed it on top of the tree. 

That evening, Christmas Eve, the nine of us again walked to the village.  Our feet made satisfying crunching sounds through the crusty snow.  The village church was our destination. Candles shone in all the windows, casting shimmering shadows on the icy whiteness.  It seemed the whole town was attending the midnight service.  We were greeted with smiles and greetings of “Willkommen.”  We were welcomed by everyone. 

 Christmas carols, all in German, but so familiar to us in every other way, filled the small church with happiness and joy.  The pastor’s message, all in German, made us feel the meaning of Christmas, as if we understood every word.

Next morning, as the boys opened their allotted two gifts apiece, no one complained.  Michele and I baked our now thawed turkey and completed all the usual trimmings, minus a pumpkin pie.  No one complained.  When it was time for all to help clean up from our meal, no one complained.  Again, magical.

As I reflect on that Swiss Christmas of more than a decade ago, what made it so extraordinary?  Was it Switzerland itself?  Was it being with family and wonderful friends?  Was it fulfilled expectations?
Yes, of course, it was all of that.  And, yet, it was more.  It was that intangible thing called hope.  It was recognition that we are more than ourselves alone.  It was the knowledge that we need one another and are here to help each other and to be selfless when called upon to be so.  It was the magic of Christmas that happened to be in a country called Switzerland.


  1. Nancy,

    Wow, what a magical sharing! Simply lovely, thanks for sharing your heart and soul.
    Nicole Weaver

  2. Hi Nancy:

    Thanks for sharing such precious memories with us. It sounds like it was a splendid time!

    Warm regards,

  3. This is such a lovely post, Nancy! Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories.

  4. What a wonderful blog, Nancy, and so interesting. Thanks for letting us get to know you better. Wishing you lots of success!

  5. Hi Nancy,

    I’m a fellow GAP author. Thanks for telling us about the National Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. I hope it’s a big success.
    I’m looking forward to reading your book about the pelican. I live in Florida, and the Gulf oil spill hurt me deeply. Many of my stories have to do with conservation of animals and the Earth. I would love to interview you for my blog. It isn’t as focused as yours as I include family matters and travels as well as writing. You’re welcome to visit.
    I enjoyed your Christmas post; I used to live in Germany and it brought back memories.

  6. What beautiful memories, Nancy. That was an idyllic Christmas for you to share with us.

  7. Thanks for the kind comment, Barbara. It was a wonderful holiday and one I'll never forget!