I'm not particularly into the holidays. I think it's because most of my Christmasses for the past decade or so have been spent in tropical splendor (or at least in Maputo, or on a plane on my way to tropical splendor). Being from New Mexico, I associate Christmas with cold weather, snow, luminarias, bizcochitos, fireplaces with piñon wood, posole, tamales, real Christmas trees and presents on Christmas morning. It seems that without those triggers, the holidays didn't feel "real".
I remember the first time I spent the holidays in the Southern Hemisphere. It was 1997 and I was living in Maringá, Paraná in Brasil. My host family had taken me to the beach in Santa Catarina state, and we celebrated with the traditional midnight dinner on December 24th (in this case, on the roof of the resort town's tallest apartment building), lots of drinking, card playing and samba dancing. There wasn't really a gift exchange, which made me feel a bit like the odd one out since I'd prepared a little something for each member of the family. Most of Christmas Day was spent sleeping, then when the effects of the previous night's festivities had worn off, we all went to the beach. It was so incredibly un-Christmaslike that I was actually quite sad.
At some point over the last 12 years, I got over it.
I suppose I spent so many Christmasses on a plane by myself (always the cheapest day to travel over winter break, and every year from 1997 - 2002 I went back to Brasil for the end of the year) that the absence of a holiday tradition ceased to matter. Holidays were in my head, were easily celebrated on off-days whenever family was together, and many times simply involved a phone call or small dinner celebration. I wasn't sad anymore at the absence of a traditional New Mexico Christmas, but I also ceased to get into the spirit that much.
Now that Rico and I are in Casa Cali, back in the "cold" weather and the land of the Christmas-obsessed, we've tried to resurrect some of the holiday excitement. We had grand plans to buy a Christmas tree - a live one with a root ball, of course, to be kept on the deck semi-undecorated until planting time thanks to our cats (they'd be up in the tree and knocking off all of my precious family ornaments in no time were it left indoors as a "present" to them) - but that just didn't happen. We had other priorities, I suppose, and got busy with things like work and driving a van full of furniture back from New Mexico. So no tree this year...
However we did manage to muster up a bit of Christmas festiveness: we bough red chile lights, and fully plan to put them somewhere visible before the actual holiday has passed. That, and I plan to bake a bazillion Christmas cookies to give as default gifts to our extended family and neighbors.
The big Christmas present, however, was one that Rico and I agreed would be our one and only gift to each other (we're not really into exchanging presents à la US tradition). We purchased a Sonos, a fabulous music system for Casa Cali that allows us to listen to whatever we want in different rooms. Music was definitely one of the things missing in our life (we sold our iPods and speakers prior to leaving Maputo), and we couldn't be happier now that we have a soundtrack available for working, cooking and entertaining. Amazingly, I actually listened to holiday music the other day: a Baroque Christmas, unearthed from my huge collection of classical cd's. Baby steps to full holiday spirit, I suppose. Baby steps...