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 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 kids, but it remains an unspoken rule among the hardy adults taking part: traditional bathing suits only.
Christmas in Paris is all about the lights. Each year, starting in November, this city is festooned with tiny white lights. Trees, building facades, doorways, shop windows, monuments… everywhere you look, everything is covered with them.
I remember each morning and again each evening, years ago, as I’d walk young Jackson to and from school, he and I would 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 of this grand boulevard aglow with thousands of white lights in our memories.
“It’s a fairy land,” 4-year-old Jack declared one morning.
I can see it still… in my mind when I think of that long ago morning and also, whenever I’m able, by walking just a few blocks down the street from where I’m sitting right now.
Paris is reliable that way.
Twinkling lights and decorated shop windows adorned with wreaths and garlands with red berries and pinecones… pine trees flocked with white… gold ribbon and enormous gold bows… nowhere does storefronts the way this city does storefronts this time of year.
My favorite part of Christmas in Panama City, where we’ve been based for the past dozen years, is the chance it gives us to enjoy the community we’ve built in this city.
Each year at our tree-trimming and office parties, looking around at the assembled group, I’m struck by the same thought…
How did this happen, I wonder, as I take in the extraordinarily eclectic mix of folks laughing and joking, drinking eggnog and singing Christmas carols together.
Among the group are Panamanians and Americans, as you might expect, but also German, French, Belgian, Irish, British, Spanish, Russian, Jamaican, and Canadian friends and colleagues.
Watching them, each time, I enjoy a moment of pure delight. How fortunate I am, I remind myself, to be part of this mixed-up bunch.
These past two-plus decades that we’ve been moving around the world as we have been, it’s been this—the creation of like-minded societies—that has been perhaps the greatest source of pleasure for me everywhere we’ve spent time.
Getting to know people from all around the world, as friends, as business partners, as workmates, then focusing together on particular goals and objectives, helping each other to pursue opportunities, as we identify them, for both fun and profit… for me, that’s as good as it gets.
We’re spending Christmas Day this year with our kids in Paris... indulging in traditional French delights of this season, from oysters and poularde to Bûche de Noël and many bottles of champagne… and taking advantage of the annual opportunity this season offers for remembering and taking stock.
From Baltimore some 22 years ago to Waterford, Ireland… Paris, France… Panama City, Panama… to now, now that both our children are launched, flipping the switch to our next stage… dividing our time between Paris and Panama and moving around the world otherwise as business agendas and personal wanderlust dictate…
We’re thinking this sublimely flexible phase of our lives could be the best one yet.
Specifically, where will 2020 lead us? I couldn’t say… but I can’t wait to find out.
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 find yourself enjoying it this year, and our sincere hope that 2020 is the year your own far-flung dreams of adventure overseas begin to come true.
All the best from our family to yours.
We so appreciate you coming along with us for this ride and are delighted and honored to count you among our ever-expanding global community.