Dec. 25, 2012, Baltimore, Maryland: The Christmas Day swim is an annual Irish Christmas Day tradition, and Christmas in Paris is all about the lights.
'Tis the season to remember All the faces and the places that were home 'Tis the season to remember And to count up all the ports of call I've known Merry Christmas to my saints and guardian angels Who protect me as I roam
Guess my life's moved at near light speed Since I started this wild and crazy run Such a long way from that first birthday
'Tis the season to remember No we're never far from home Merry Christmas, everyone
--"Merry Christmas, Alabama" by Jimmy Buffett
Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,
Our seven Christmases in Ireland, we could never bring ourselves to participate in one of Ireland's quirkiest festive traditions, what the Irish refer to as the "Christmas Day swim."
On Christmas morning, from beaches, piers, and coves around the country, people of all ages gather to immerse themselves in waters of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (maximum).
"Swim" is a bit of a misnomer. There is no particular distance that you need to cover, nor any agreed-upon duration you must stay in the water. You simply join the crowd of people running toward and then into the water (cheered on by well-wrapped-up spectators), screaming as their bodies hit the ice-cold sea. A quick splash of the arms and legs, then back in to shore to dry off, wrap up, and enjoy a hot drink or a shot of whiskey.
Wetsuits have appeared on the scene in recent years, mostly among the kids, but it remains an unspoken rule among the hardy adults taking part: Traditional bathing suits only...
Our four Christmases in Paris were all about the lights. Each year, starting in November, Boulevard St. Germain, just a few blocks from our apartment in this city, is strung with tiny white lights. The trees, the building facades, they're covered with them. Each morning and again each evening as I'd walk Jackson, aged 4 through 8 at the time, to and from school, we'd linger at the intersection of rue du Bac and Boulevard St. Germain as long as possible, looking up and down, up and down, slowly, working to fix that magical view in our memories. "It's a fairy land," 4-year-old Jack declared it one morning. I see it still.
Twinkling lights and decorated shop windows. This time of year, storefronts throughout Paris are draped with pine garland, and shop windows are decorated with green trees flocked with white and trimmed with red and gold baubles. No one does shop windows like the French do shop windows, and no others compare with the shop windows of Paris at Christmastime.
This year, we're in Baltimore, celebrating the season with my family, remembering all the other parts of the world where we've found ourselves this special time of year in years past, and wondering where the coming New Year will lead us.
On behalf of the entire far-flung staff of Live and Invest Overseas, please accept our warm and heartfelt wishes for a Merry Christmas, wherever you're enjoying it this year, and our sincere hope that 2013 is the year your far-flung dreams of adventure overseas begin to come true.
All the best from our family to yours. We so much appreciate your coming along with us for this ride.
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