Spending Christmas away from home can be melodramatic. Especially if you came from a close-knit family or gotten used to big family events, being an Expat during this festive time of the year can be a little bit – sad.
I have had my fair share of Christmases away from home since becoming an Expat in 2009. And to be honest, it has gotten better now that I have a family of my own. In saying that, it still takes a little bit more effort for our little family to make Christmas the festive event we have grown accustomed to. My husband and I both came from families who celebrate Christmas in a BIG way (imagine spending hours chatting while EATING surrounded with close friends and families) – so spending Christmas with just the three of us still is a far cry from what we have gotten used to back home.
Reality taught me it is NOT always possible to board an international flight to celebrate Christmas elsewhere. And this experience allowed me to consider going to Christmas events around Dublin so we don’t spend it inside our apartment just like an ordinary day.
Two years ago, I decided to check for family-friendly events in Dublin for Christmas. The endless Googling led me to an annual event called Winter Funderland, which was conveniently located at RDS (Royal Dublin Society). It is easy to get there since it is easily accessible by train from our apartment block. And after reading what they have in store, my husband and I decided to go.
My son was barely a year old that Christmas so we thought that even if he was not old enough to enjoy the rides – he can at least enjoy looking at the lights from it. Apart from the rides, the website also indicated there were food stalls and an ice skating rink around the venue so we thought it is worthwhile to check out.
It was about a 30-minute train ride to get to RDS but we decided to book for an overnight stay at Four Seasons (now Intercontinental) Hotel. The hotel is conveniently located just a stone’s throw away from RDS. Apart from the convenience to go to the event, we wanted to have a “changed scenery” from our apartment, too!
It was the first time we were doing it so we have absolutely no idea what to expect. We decided to arrive early to be the first in line – just in case it is a busy event. We didn’t have a car so we arrived by foot. RDS is big and there are multiple halls within the premises. And for the Winter Funderland, they used the space behind the main entrance so it was better to enter through the parking.
The event was just getting started when we arrived. In fact, some food stalls were just opening. To be honest, seeing the venue when we arrived was a “let down”. Because it was Christmas, I was expecting something a lot more – extravagant. But the Winter Funderland just looked like the rides and food stalls available during Oktoberfest, with the addition of the indoor ice skating rink facility.
We didn’t let the “bad vibe” get to us and hoped it will improve when the stalls opened. We got busy with some toy catcher machines around the other side of the food stalls to entertain our son as well. After that, we entered the indoor ice skating rink to watch. My son enjoyed seeing other kids skating around the rink. It would’ve been nice to stay inside the rink even if nobody has any intention to skate (nobody from our hood knows how to!) but it was absolutely freezing inside – we had to get out!
As we stepped out, we noticed a queue forming to get inside a hall. I remembered the area was dark and had barriers when we arrived so was surprised to see a queue forming to get in. I took a peek and noticed that the area was filled with rides – never thought MOST of the rides were indoors!
Since we realized that the main attraction of Funderland was inside THAT hall, we took our place to get in. I stood in line as my husband tried to entertain my now super bored son, hoping that we are able to get in to make our trip there worthwhile. While I was queueing, I noticed that we are the only ones with a baby. Some also had a pram but were accompanied by an older sibling. Some couples who had only one child (baby) were just walking outdoors and heading towards the exit at this point.
At that moment, my son is growing irritated by the minute. So I tried to push myself slightly forward to have a good look what’s inside. To my dismay, the hall was cramped with A LOT of things. There were bouncy castles, carousels, and mini rollercoasters but there wasn’t that much space to walk around (at least from my view).
I reached the entrance and was told we had to pay an entrance fee. After I heard the words, I knew that Funderland was NOT our fun place for Christmas that year. Despite the efforts, I walked away and told my husband about it. I think we were thinking of the same thing (especially as my son is now super grumpy) and headed towards the exit.
It may have been a failed attempt to do something for Christmas that year. In a way, it was. But at least, I learned that when my son gets a bit bigger – we have somewhere just around Dublin that he’d “probably” like to go.
The day ended with us, back inside our hotel room with room service delivered. In the end, I thought, the day was not too bad. The essence of Christmas is to be with our loved ones and that’s what I have! So from our family to yours, a blessed Christmas to you!