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Spending Christmas Overseas

Happy Start Of The Holiday Season From Sunny Panama

If you grew up in the Northern Hemisphere, as I did, it’s difficult to get excited about the holiday season in the tropics. As I write from my home office in Panama City, it’s sunny and warm (that is, hot and humid)…just like it always is. Nevertheless, Kathleen is unpacking the Christmas boxes and decorating the apartment as she has done every year we’ve been together…in Ireland, Paris, and now Panama.

Living an international lifestyle means making adjustments. Christmas in Panama has been one of them for us. With no intervening holidays like Halloween or Thanksgiving, the Christmas decorations come out in stores here in early September. If you don’t buy your Christmas paraphernalia in this country before the end of October, you may not be able to find what you want. On the other hand, whatever’s left by November is on sale.

In Ireland, we went to a local tree farm each year to choose our Christmas tree, cut it down, and haul it home. In Paris, we bought our tree from the neighborhood florist. In Panama, we wait to hear that the shipment of fir trees (there’s only one) has finally cleared customs and head down to the local food wholesaler who clears out his enormous refrigerated room to take delivery of the hundreds of trees he ships in from Canada each year.

Christmas isn’t the only holiday adjustment you make living overseas. Each country has its own independence day…or days. Panama has three, all bundled into November. These Fiestas Patrias are promptly followed by Mother’s Day on Dec. 8, meaning that you’re looking at a month of shortened work weeks in this country…followed by Christmas and New Year’s.

The French (and much of Europe) take the month of August off. The entire month…maybe up to six weeks, including the last week or two of July. You embrace it or at least cope with it. You certainly aren’t going to affect it. Everything closes for three to six weeks, as everyone heads to the beach and the country.

In Panama, folks head to the beach every weekend, every holiday, and every other opportunity they can manufacture. We’ve come to look forward to these times when all of Panama City bugs out. We enjoy having this normally crazy congested city to ourselves.

Happy start of the holiday season…from sunny Panama.

Lief Simon

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