With the holidays right around the corner, Alex and I walked hand-in-hand through the freezing cobblestoned streets of Strasbourg, looking up in awe at the colorful twinkles of the thousands of lights that engulf the city. We shlepped to the massive Aushau supermarket (the Walmart of France) and lugged home bag after bag of lights, garland and wrapping paper. We spent weekdays after work wrapping our front door into a massive present, gold ribbon crisscrossing the frame and a massive glittery red bow taped on top. We hammered in nails, propping garland and pinecones along the wooden doorways, wrapping white twinkle lights around and around. The garland fell. We found ourselves tripping over lights, losing our balance on chairs, and walking away in frustration (typical Christmas decorating antics). We added some chocolate chip cookies in the oven, poured ourselves some cocoa and marshmallows (we may be in France but the Americans in us are still alive and well!) and sat down with our treat on our pillow-covered sofa, right after running next door to give a plate of cookies to our sweet French neighbors, and Will Ferrel’s acclaimed ELF ready to be played.

These are the memories I live for.

Bing Crosby playing on Youtube in the background. The sweet aroma of hot cookies wafting in from the kitchen. Squishy marshmallows being dunked in hot cocoa. Slow dances in the living room. A spontaneous make out on the couch, the twinkle lights softly glowing our living room. White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life and other classic Christmas movies we often binge – only at this time of the year.

These are the moments I most cherish. This are the moments I always look back on year after year.  This is what I most desire every Christmas.

We don’t ask for gifts from our family. In fact, we beg them not to give us gifts (some years we frustratingly have to ask them again not to). We ask for memories, we ask for experiences. Or rather, we don’t ask at all. What we want and most desire every Christmas are not the latest gadgets, the cutest shoes or the prettiest mugs. We don’t want another journal or pair of socks. We desire moments of LIFE. Of living fully alive, invested in the present and surrounded by people we care about. We desire roadtrips, long walks in the park and snuggles with dogs. We desire our family to come visit us, especially being so far away from home here in Strasbourg, and new memories to be shared and experienced together.

We desire new traditions being made. This is the first year my husband, Alex and I are spending Christmas together. For the past four years, Alex and I have been apart with our individual parents. But as newlyweds, with our first 6 months of marriage under our belts, we get to celebrate and create new traditions together for the future Christmases. This is the first one of many.

It’ll only be us this Christmas.

I don’t remember the trinkets or the appliances, the Starbucks gift cards or the new cardigan. I remember moments. I remember the love that we felt, the glances we shared and the thousand kisses shared under the twinkle lights.

As always, Mariah got it right.

Happy Holidays, friends. May this holiday season treat you peacefully. May you find joy in the now, in the present moment.

Helena Woods Desires and the holiday season

What I Desire Most Every Christmas

November 29, 2018

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  1. Christine Boris Esteban

    November 29th, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Such beautiful sentiments, from beautiful you. Wishing you and your hubby many blessings of the season. With love…

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Helena Woods is a destination family photographer currently based in France but travels worldwide. She lives for diving the world's oceans, recording her experiences traveling the world on her blog, and documenting moments of joyful and magical human connection. Her style is modern classic, emotive and honest. She believes in wild adventures, laughing too hard, and most importantly: capturing genuine moments that evoke feeling over perfectly posed photographs.

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