As the youngest child in my family, I had expected to suffer from what I like to call ‘youngest child syndrome’ this Christmas as it was my first year away from home.
I expected to feel like like Kevin McCallister in "Home Alone 2 Lost in New York!"
Thankfully this didn’t happen.
Having moved to America a little under 4 weeks ago I knew I wouldn’t be going back home to Ireland for the festive season. I had wondered what to expect. I was about to find out what Christmas as an honorary New Yorker was really like.
Spending Christmas in the city seemed daunting to many of my friends back home, to me it seemed liberating. It’s an exciting phase in my new life.
At 24, I felt it was time to have a semi-independent Christmas season.
While I do enjoy the festivities, I wouldn’t exactly say I am the ‘poster child’ for Christmas. In Ireland my favorite things were always the lead up to Christmas day. As a young journalist I enjoy the hustle of the streets, the bumping and mild pushing through department stores in search of gifts that people usually receive ten times over.
This year was different. I got to experience the hustle of the New York streets but also soak up the ambience of city living at Christmastime.
In Ireland my typical Christmas Eve was always a lazy start to the day, usually involving a late breakfast and The Irish Times to digest while arguing with my older brother. The usual Christmas morning for Irish families.
The afternoon was the traditional visit to both remaining grandparents and usually bumping into extended family that I haven’t seen since the previous Christmas.
This tradition is what I missed the most this year about not being at home.
The swapping of stories of the past year while everyone pretends to care, when really the younger ones want to get home or are immersed in a smart phone while parents discuss trivial things like the cooking of the Turkey and Ham.
I always get a kick out of my 92 year-old grandfather telling me the stories of when he was a boy my age. I love the fact he still considers me a boy at 24, but this is a tradition that must be savoured.
The tradition of visiting my grandparents in essence lived on again this Christmas, but this time I paid them a visit via skype. A strange experience for both parties as my Granny stared through the looking glass of a laptop screen.
“It’s amazing what you can do these days,” she gasped.
Of course both my mother and grandmother had the Irish ‘Mammy’ out in force to make sure I would be getting my Christmas dinner. Heaven forbid that the ‘baby’ of the family would be all alone for the festivities in New York.
The older Irish generation are a fountain of wit and knowledge. A generation that survived on very little and are now catching up to the cosmopolitan world their grandchildren live in.
In the run up to Christmas here in New York, I did what most New Yorkers and tourists do and went to see the tree at the Rockefeller Center. I witnessed the magic of the infamous New York Christmas lights and even a marriage proposal. And they say love is dying, clearly not in this city!
My Christmas morning was most definitely a memorable one. I took to Central Park for my daily 10k run and in those moments before I set off, embraced how lucky I was to be spending my first Christmas away from home in New York.
As I joined in on the park route, there was a great sense of comradery as families took their children out for an early morning stroll to calm the excitement of the visit from Santa, many children taking off on new bicycles and skateboards as proud parents watched on.
An elderly couple stood watching the ducks below in the water and I thought how lucky I was to be having this experience at 24. Working and living in the heart of a country I came to love in 2010.
Now there are things I did miss about Ireland, and one in particular, as cliched as it sounds, but the 12 pubs of Christmas.
It’s always a great social event, especially for the friends you make at college. However I did manage to have a few beers here in New York in a well known Irish bar with some people I attended the University of Limerick with as an undergraduate student.
The great thing about being Irish in America, is that a friend of a friend, instantly becomes a connection to you also. It’s in our nature.
The Christmas dinner was consumed, and "Fairytale of New York" played out in the bar, there's nothing else one could really ask for, is there? As one friend put we were the definition of ‘winning’
Many families were missing people at the dinner table this festive season and this is sad, but my own Irish American Christmas was liberating and I look forward to the year ahead and what adventures this great city has in store for me.
I would call Christmas 2013 a great success. I even sent my mother a selfie on snapchat with the turkey to prove I am now a capable adult ... Well almost.
Raise a glass to Robert Emmet, the Irish rebel leader executed on this day in 1803