Christmas at Sea

It is a seaman's job; we are usually miles away from our family and friends during the holiday season. The separation from your loved ones is really painful but is a distinct trait characteristic of our naval tradition and history. While sailing the seas of the world, loneliness is unavoidable.
Undoubtedly, during this time of the year, which is considered to be a season when you share love and feel family warmth, not being at home is really hard. Especially, when all you see is the vast ocean knowing that all the people you care are gathered around the Christmas table while you are alone. The only comforting thought is that you know your loved ones are gathered all together.

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Definitely, these feelings are not one sided, as we know that our families feel the same way. All of us are really tired of counting months, days, hours until we are reunited... a lifetime of counting and waiting...

So sad to be absent from the family table while parents, wives, children and friends are wishing "God Speed and may next year bring them to us safe and sound."

The feeling of their absence is intense.

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My childhood memories are full of pictures of all the family gathered around the Christmas table while my father's chair was almost always empty. Now it is my turn: Christmas time comes around and I am far away from my beloved son.

Christmas means a family atmosphere and loving feelings, so we try to enjoy this festive period on board our "second home." Along with our fellow seamen, we try to recreate a family environment. We decorate the Christmas tree and we prepare traditional food such as "kourabiedes," which are holiday butter and almond cookies coated with icing sugar and "melomakarona" popular honey cakes sprinkled with walnuts. In this way we have a feeling of being at home.

We all know, we have chosen this path in life and we have somehow come to terms with the fact that we shall probably be away from our homes not only during Christmas or Easter but also during other significant moments in our life. Most of us wouldn't trade this magnificent job despite the hard times we face almost everyday. We love the sea! If we didn't love it, how could we sail it courageously and decisively, being calm or enraged.

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We try to make the most out of the time we spend with our loved ones. We ought to value our time together. After all, it is their love, their smiles, their unlimited support and affection that give us strength to carry on our journey!

All these feelings are reflected in the customs and ways of my birth place, the island of Chios, through carols and wishes totally embedding the sea. A tradition as such, are the "ships of wishes." The local people wander with them around the neighborhoods of the island during Christmas and New Year's Eve, singing carols and praises for the seamen who are far away and for the families who patiently await them.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Greece.