The gorgeous and talented Matthew Morrison of Glee fame serenaded President Obama during the recent Christmas in Washington concert with a rousing rendition of “Mele Kalikimaka,” which is “Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you.” Many of our readers no doubt live in states where it’s “green and bright” this time of year, but being a native of New York State, I’ve grown accustomed to having a white Christmas. Which is why the year we took a family vacation to Disney World for Christmas so stands out in my mind, and why I’m looking forward to celebrating the same way next year with my daughter.
Many of us travel to see relatives during the winter holidays, but taking a family vacation – doing something completely out of the ordinary – is a sure-fire way to create Christmas memories that will last a lifetime. When I was a freshman in high school, my parents, my two brothers and I drove from New York to Florida. It took us two days to get to Florida, and there were lots of traffic jams on 95 South (during which my father got to show off his inventive use of curse words, something he really should have been awarded for at some point in his life). Before we got to Orlando, we stopped in Daytona, specifically at the International Speedway. There was nothing going on there, but my father had talked for years about the time he attended the Daytona 500 and how amazing it was. I come from a race track town, so NASCAR is something of an obsession. (As my friend Josh Grosvent once said, “Central New York is the South of the North.”)
We made it to Disney World a day or two before Christmas, and spent the big day itself at Typhoon Lagoon water park. I remember all of us sort of looking around, marvelling at the fact that we weren’t freezing and buried under a foot of snow, stuffing ourselves with meat and pasta. Instead, we were showing off our hearty and hairy Italian figures in sunny 80 degree weather – it was thrilling. As I mentioned earlier in the month, this is my third Christmas without my Dad, but my brother and I are still reminiscing about that trip, watching our Dad on Christmas morning as he flew down the 5-story waterslide they call Humunga Kowabunga, shouting as he reached the bottom, “That thing goes so fast it nearly ripped my shorts off!” Then he let out his trademark, “Ha-HA!,” a laugh we heard a lot that vacation.
I’ve taken a few Christmas vacations since then, to visit my ex’s family in Holland mostly, but they were all extraordinarily memorable. There’s something marvelous about seeing the world all wrapped up in garland and lights; it makes everywhere you go feel magical. (Granted, I haven’t ever been to the Middle East or Asia, but I hear they’ve got quite a spectacular tree in Abu Dhabi this year.) I have been to Paris and London at Christmastime, and they were both incredible. Paris is known for its beautiful lights all year round, but seeing the Galeries Lafayette covered from top to bottom in Christmas decor is truly spectacular.
Have you taken your family on vacation for Christmas? Feel free to share your memories in the comments! And if you’re travelling this year, you might want to follow Heather’s 7 Tips for Flying with Babies.