Thursday, December 2

‘A lizard climbed into my bag!’: 10 Readers on Their Most Memorable Christmas Memories | Life and Style

‘I carried the huge alpaca toy all the way home’

As we left the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia, we came across a store that sold products such as bags of salt, sweets and sweaters with beautiful drawings. I was looking at the fluffy little alpaca toys, which are sold all over the Andes, when I turned a corner and saw the biggest one I had ever seen. I laughed at how resounding and adorable he was. He was obsessed, but I thought it would be too expensive to take it away. When it turned out to cost around £ 20, I couldn’t say no. I carried him all the way home, snuggled him into an overnight bus, and tied him to the seat next to me for the 17-hour flight. He brought joy to all who saw him and even the hostesses cradled him like a baby. It now takes pride of place in my living room and is the best souvenir I have ever bought. Molly Williams, journalist, Sheffield

‘A neighbor asked me why I had a multi-colored urinal in the garden’

While in Morocco, I came across a factory that made beautiful mosaic trinkets. Feeling flushed, I decided to commission a mosaic fountain for the garden. Several months later, they called me from Heathrow and told me that my source had arrived, and that it was so heavy that it needed specialized transport, which cost a fortune. It turned out to be a meter high concrete slab with some broken colored tiles glued to the front, and it required electricity to run (which it didn’t have in the garden). My Moroccan fantasy did not move to the Surrey countryside; the fountain never worked and I decided to get rid of it after a neighbor asked me why I had a multi-colored urinal in the garden. David Hicks, Forensic Accountant, Surrey

‘I have a California tortoise riding a gleaming sled’

I’m very lucky to have traveled quite a bit, and for every new country I visit, I buy some kind of hanging keepsake that I can use as a Christmas tree decoration. Now I have all sorts of things, from a California tortoise riding a shiny sled to a Hello Kitty from Japan in a kimono. Every year our Christmas tree is a nostalgic visual reminder of our adventures. Niamh Downey, Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Hong Kong

‘My husband’s crutches are the strangest memory I have ever kept’

A pair of crutches. Photograph: Alan Powdrill / Getty Images

On the last day of a family vacation in Austria, about 20 years ago, my husband took our children to a water park and had an accident on one of the waterslides that dislocated his knee. He had to go to hospital for treatment and missed our flight back to the UK. We finally returned home, with my husband on crutches and wearing a “cricket brace” on his leg. Since then, my daughter “inherited” the crutches and I still have the cricket brace in the loft. It’s the strangest memory I’ve ever had in my life, but it always reminds me of that vacation, until the last day, we had a great time! Anonymous, Wales

‘My garage is full of various sodas’

gaseous burst
Lotta bottle… sodas always taste better on vacation. Photograph: Rene van den Berg / Alamy

I don’t usually drink carbonated drinks at home, but I always try them if I see something that I don’t recognize abroad. This means that I often fall in love with random soda bottles that we don’t have in the UK, and end up trying to carry bags of those things home from the airport. Currently, I have bottles of Spezi (Germany), Rivella (Switzerland) and Appelsín (Iceland), all stored in my garage. Heather, charity worker, Edinburgh

‘A bright green lizard snagged an elevator in my bag!’

A green male sand lizard. Photograph: Buiten-Beeld / Alamy

After a school trip to Swanage, where we visited the sand dunes of the Studland National Nature Reserve, I unpacked my clothes and put my bag in a closet. When I walked into the closet a few hours later, I came across a bright green lizard! Unbeknownst to me, the male sand lizard had hopped on an elevator, probably when I left my bag for lunch, and traveled the 50 miles back to our home in Wiltshire. I was fascinated, but my parents weren’t willing to travel the distance to return the protected and rare reptile, so I set it free in our garden. It probably didn’t survive, but it increased my fascination with the natural world. Ellis Selway, Environmentalist, Cambridgeshire

‘I bought a souvenir that started a family business’

Pair of scissors
Kind of shear … the Greek implement that became a family business. Photography: Emma Tinker

In 2003, I bought a souvenir that started a family business. My partner and I were on vacation on the Greek island of Ikaria, and our tour guide mentioned that a local hardware store sold sheep shears which were a great gift for gardeners. I bought a pair for my mom’s birthday. Three years later, my brother Jack was looking for business ideas and Mom mentioned scissors. “They are fantastic,” he said. “Why don’t you see if you can import them?” Jack went to the hardware store in Ikaria and then met George, whose family makes the scissors. Jack started selling them in the UK and after a few years turned the business over to our sister, Claire. She still runs it, 15 years later. When my partner and I got married, George and his family came to our wedding. Emma Tinker, Professor, Oxford

‘My replica stupa has a special place on my nightstand’

Stupa of Alexandra Lavizzari, made of clay and ashes of deceased nuns. Photography: Alexandra Lavizzari

More than 20 years ago, I went to stay with a Swiss friend who lived and studied in Bhutan and together we visited the Karma Drubdey convent. Then each of us was given a small gift: a replica of a stupa, made by a nun from a mixture of clay and the ashes of deceased nuns. It is a reminder of the transience of life and as such has a special place on my nightstand. (Barbara, my Swiss friend, is now a fully ordained Buddhist nun.) Alexandra Lavizzari, writer and artist, Somerset

‘This strange papier-mâché creature became our Christmas mascot’

tiger lamb
Tanner Trangmar tiger lamb, or also. Photography: Tanner Trangmar

In 2018 my partner and I went on vacation to Amsterdam and visited the IJ-Hallen flea market. We split to see who could buy the weirdest item for less than € 5. I won on this weird papier-mâché creature that cost only 40 cents. I thought it was a lamb, but others in our group thought it was meant to be a tiger because of its color, so it became known as the tamb (tiger lamb) and became our mascot for the rest of the holiday. We took the ferry back to the UK and sailed through a very bad storm. He also sat at our table in the bar and, as none of us suffered from seasickness, he was seen as a lucky charm. Tanner Trangmar, civil servant, Edinburgh

‘I don’t know what possessed me to keep the Big Mac wrappers’

In 2019, my parents downsized their staff and I went to go through the boxes of my belongings that were still in their loft. My four children saw and I was sure that I would come across something that would impress them from my travels around the world. I did not disappoint. In a box were Russian matryoshka dolls and decorated chopsticks; however, it was two neat white papers, carefully folded, that impressed them the most. Although one was written Cyrillic (Russian) and the other Hanzi (Chinese characters), they were unmistakably Big Mac wrappers from Moscow and Beijing. The Golden Arches were first lit in Moscow in 1990 and there were still queues around the block when we visited three years later. What possessed me to put those wrappers away I will never know, especially since I then had to hear my kids complain that I had never let them set foot in a McDonald’s. Jo Carroll, social worker, Australia

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