It seems that the holidays started very early this year for some reason. I guess it’s because we hosted a real Thanksgiving dinner for my friend, Vicky, and her family. They are British, and had never celebrated the holiday properly. I was tempted to tell her husband that he had to dress up like a pilgrim, but I guess I like him too much.
I rushed around the night before to make sure the house was clean, prepped, and decorated. My mom always has the house decked out for the holidays, and I wasn’t going to break family tradition (since I was trying to impress). The tree was up, and the mantle dressed…that was going to have to be good enough seeing as I ran out of time. Sorry Mom…I just can’t compete with your decorating skills.
We managed to cook our 20 pound (approximately 8 kilo) turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, acorn squash, Dutch salad, pecan and pumpkin pies, and even managed some chocolate chip cookies for the kids. I thought it was quite a spread, and I think the virgin Thanksgiving diners seemed to enjoy it too. They took home ample amounts of leftovers, so they were able to indulge for a couple days to come.
Thanksgiving passed quietly, and winter holidays commenced with a bang. School parties (Sinterklaas (Dutch/Belgian), Chanukah (Jewish), St. Lucia (Swedish), Nativity (Christian), and a Winter party), get togethers with friends (my favorite was “Beer and Cookies”), work parties…you get the gist. I felt like the Christmas spirit was getting lost somewhere between my glasses of red wine and shoving endless amounts of finger foods in my mouth. I felt sick. Suddenly school was out for 2 ½ weeks, and Christmas was upon us. I felt sicker. When you live far away from your family, it’s sometimes hard to catch that Christmas spirit. Luckily, it found its way to my doorstep just in time to spend the holidays with my extended family…my friends.
I was a bit frazzled as Christmas was approaching. We hosted Christmas Eve at our house, and my friend, Vanessa, and her family was joining us for the evening. I was less worried than Thanksgiving since they had celebrated Christmas before. Vanessa and I also decided to head down to the Brussels Marché de Noël on the 23rd. It was a great time…the weather was mild, and that made it so much more comfortable. How can you complain when you have beer, champagne, carousels, Ferris wheels, ice skating and a luge for sledding? The girls loved it, and so did my husband and I. It felt like a real Christmas event.
Christmas Eve turned out to be a success. It was relaxed, full of fun and friends. It was a foreshadowing event for me since my girls are going to marry Vanessa’s boys…I feel for those boys, my girls are going to run them ragged! Later, another family came to join the festivities. It was so nice to hear kids playing, glasses clinking, laughter, and joy in the air. It reminded me of the parties my parents used to throw on Christmas Eve. I guess nostalgia comes in all forms.
Along came Christmas morning, and so did the excitement of little feet running down the steps, and the shrieks of happiness. I do love the smiles that Santa brings my little girls. I kept hearing…”I asked for that!” It was funny to watch my two year old attack the wrapping paper like an army combatant. When they were all gone, she kept saying…”No more presents? I want more!” The kids played with their new toys, and my husband and I tried to relax as much as we could. I took Wyatt for a long walk. During my walk I found it funny that no one would say “Merry Christmas!” I kept looking at people and saying it too them…it became a game to me. I saw about 10 people on my walk. I initiated it each time. How sad is that?
We headed over the hills and through the rain to Shannon’s home for Christmas dinner. To be honest, I was grateful that I wasn’t hosting another holiday dinner. I love her family. Her mom and dad were visiting, and they are something else. It’s kind of like having my own parents around. I love how easily our families meld together, and how much fun we actually have. This is our second Christmas our families have shared together…it’s nice to think that we have our own little expat holiday traditions blooming. Sitting around the table and seeing all the smiling faces made the night complete.
The celebrating didn’t stop there…December 26th is Boxing Day. To be honest, I’d always heard of it growing up because I know they celebrate it in Canada, but had no idea of its purpose. Apparently it began as a day where wealthy British gave their servants a box with a gift in it…now it’s just a bank holiday. Anyway, we went over to Vicky’s for it. To be honest, it was just a little party of our own. Kids running around, pool being played (British rules – I wasn’t aware they had their own set of rules), food, drink, and again laughter. I’m seeing a pattern here. We later ended up at our house for Raclette. It was a full day of celebration…although I don’t have any servants, so no boxes were given out by me.
I miss my family back in the US every day, not just during the holidays. I wish I could spend every holiday and birthday with them, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. We do the best we can, and make up for it when we do get to spend time together. When I look back at all of my holiday vignettes, I am always drawn to the friendships that make my holidays special. Had I not had these special people to share my holidays, and life for that matter…things would be terribly different. They have seen me through ups and downs, and they are my family too.