We were woken up early on Monday morning (Christmas Day) with cries of ‘He came! Father Christmas came!’ There was great excitement opening their small stockings containing sweets, chocolate coins, a chocolate orange, some playing cards, toothbrushes and soap. We managed an early morning video call with my family who were still up on Christmas Eve- the first time since we left that I have felt homesick, seeing them all gathered together with a beautifully decorated big tree and a warm fire. The family gathering is the most wonderful part of Christmas for me, and I was sad not to be part of it this year. Having said that, I do normally find the run up to Christmas quite stressful with all the decorations, shopping, wrapping, food preparation, card writing, children’s plays /school fairs/ carol concerts and general organisation, and the simplicity of Christmas this year has been very refreshing. We hardly thought about it until it was upon us, with just one morning of shopping for us and one evening of internet shopping for family at home, and we were able instead to relax and enjoy it and focus on the important messages of Christmas- spending time together, telling family we love them, giving thanks for all that we have and how lucky we are, and giving thanks to God. We managed a simple Christmas service, singing Away in a Manger, saying some prayers and listening to the Christmas reading by candlelight whilst it poured with torrential rain outside. The wet weather was ideal for Christmas day- after exchanging presents and eating breakfast we settled down for a family game of Carcassonne, then the kids snuggled up to watch Moana with their piles of sweets giving Ben and I some happy time alone together playing cards and chatting. We were so delighted with how excited and happy the children were with such a simple Christmas and only a couple of small gifts each; when asked what they prefer about Christmas at home the consistent answer was ‘being with our family’ with no mention of wishing they had more presents.
The rain cleared around lunchtime, and we decided to keep our tradition of a Christmas walk with a stroll to Dreamland beach for the afternoon. We had been told that this beach is suitable for beginner surfers and Jago had his hopes up, but the wet weather had closed everything except the bars and clothes shops, and once again the beach wasn’t terribly appealing- the sea had been stirred up so the water wasn’t very clear, with lots of driftwood floating around. The walk itself had been a good stomp across a field full of cows and I had a lovely time drawing on the beach- I have been really enjoying trying my hand at painting and drawing whilst we have been travelling, and whilst my pictures aren’t particularly good, I can now just appreciate being still, in the moment, having to look closely at what I am actually seeing and enjoying the creative process regardless of what I end up producing. The best way I have found yet of practising mindfulness. If only art at school had focussed more on that feeling and less on the end result! Of course we also managed to fit in a drink and an ice cream with a family game of Hearts before leaving the beach. Returning to the villa we had enough time to enjoy playing in the swimming pool and a few games of catch before getting ready to go out for dinner. We enjoyed a few more video calls with family then treated ourselves to a lovely celebratory meal at Cashew Tree, a really nice healthfood restaurant just around the corner from where we were staying. It was the perfect end to a wonderful day.
Boxing Day was our last full day at Bingin, and we had another relaxing day mostly spent hanging out at the villa with a trip to the beach for lunch and returning to Cashew Tree again for dinner, finished off with a family viewing of Doctor Who. As we got ready to leave the following morning Piran decided he would like to give some of his chocolate orange to the staff who had cooked and cleaned for us- anyone who knows how much Piran loves chocolate will know that this is a great sacrifice for him indeed! We made up a little plate with some chocolate orange, chocolate coins and toblerone and presented it to them as we left. I love so much that he enjoys giving presents as well as receiving. This small act of kindness totally made Christmas for me. Despite being so different from our usual Christmas, we had enjoyed a wonderful, special time and I am sure we will all remember it in the years to come.