Holiday Cheer without the Beer Sets You Freer

By Hannah Black

On my way home from yoga class I thought to myself: What a healthy holiday I’ve had.

While friends and family back in the UK and America have been packing themselves full of “Christmas cheer,” I have spent my days swimming, going to yoga classes eating fresh food and going for all kinds of lovely spa treatments.

Last year in the Isle of Man with my family I gained about two kilos due to alcohol consumption and another three from sitting on my bum in front of Christmas TV programming eating chocolate – so it was definitely a year of change.

Christmas overindulgence is pleasurable for sure, but the after-effects, including headaches, nausea and muffin top, are no cause for celebration.

This year my husband and I opted to take our almost two-year-old daughter Lola to a villa in Padang Bai, a quiet beach and port town in East Bali, where we planned to do nothing except relax together as a family.

We packed the car with far too many things, a big bag of presents sent in advance by grandparents added to the load, and set off on what seemed like a long journey but in reality was just less than an hour from home.

Sometimes it only takes a short drive from the village to feel like I’m in a different world, living a different life.

The villa we rented was open and modern, quiet and secluded from everyone else. It also had hot water, a bath and air conditioning in the bedroom, all extremely luxurious for us. Basically, it was a nice change from home and exactly what we needed for a few days.

It was also a great distraction from the fact that I wasn’t at home with my family, drinking, eating and being cosy in my seemingly obligatory Christmas present of slippers or new flannel pyjamas.

It’s easy enough to forget Christmas when you live in a tropical place like Bali, but living in a family compound with 20 Hindus really stops any holiday feelings in their tracks.

I would like to keep the feelings alive, though, if not for me for my daughter, who spent her first Christmas in the UK and will surely be exposed to holidays Western-style again.

Even though I grew up in a very non-religious but technically Jewish household, I remember Christmases fondly and I’d like Lola to have a taste of the frenzy of the yuletide as well.

My husband, bless him, seems to be getting into the whole thing as well and bought a couple of really nice, thoughtful presents this year without too much help.

He says he doesn’t care about the whole thing, but like everyone in the world, he likes to receive presents and also loves to see his daughter excited and spoiled for the day. Last year, at 10 months old, she appreciated the wrapping paper far more than any presents. But this year she couldn’t get enough of present-opening. I have no doubt, as with most two-year-olds, she had no idea what it was all about, but she sure did like it.

I believe I am actually lucky that I can keep traditions going in the most non-commercial way here because I’m not being bombarded with Christmas nonsense until I’m zombified by it for two months beforehand. We did the whole thing our way and it was a totally stress-free time.

Now, following a quiet New Year barbequing with friends and family, I feel refreshed, happy and like I’ve had a positive break from work.

I’m not bloated by massive amounts of food and drink; I don’t regret spending far too much money partying; and I didn’t need to pretend I’m going to give up all sorts of things as my New Year’s resolution.

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My Compound Life

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