Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Eve

Well, it doesn't much feel like Christmas to me, but apparently, it's Christmas Eve. I've been thinking about this all week. Why doesn't it feel like Christmas to me? And I think it's a combination of factors.

For one, the weather. It's just hard to feel Christmasy with 65 and sunny every day (although it's turned cloudy and cold the last two days and looks to continue today). To me, the Christmas season is bundling up in a jacket, drinking hot apple cider, and generally being miserable every time you step outside (yes, I loathe the cold).

Also, not working in a steady job has taken it's toll. When you work in an office, there are Christmas parties, decorations, and constant chatter about the "holiday season". Not so when you're sitting on your ass waiting for some government employees to stamp "approved" on your salary so that you can get started on your next job. So, I guess I've missed out a bit in that regard.

But even more profound is the lack of the Christmas environment. The commercials, the constant overdose of Christmas movies on TNT, the lack of real Christmas music. I guess I just didn't realize how powerful an effect pop culture has at Christmastime. Even when I was living in London and wasn't feeling particularly Christmasy, I still was bombarded by the message and couldn't help avoid a direct confrontation with the season.

Perhaps also contributing is the absence of a Christmas tree in our house. We shall remedy that next year. But this year, we just didn't make it happen. We talked about it, but other priorities kept intervening that ultimately kept us from Exito (kind of like the Colombian WalMart) and from buying a very nice, fake tree. Also, there aren't exactly any presents under our absent tree either. We both needed new glasses (which were damn expensive) and with our New Year's plans and me not working much this month, there is a general shortage of funds at the moment. So, no presents that we haven't already received.

The final factor is the difference of Christmas traditions. Colombia has a very distinct tradition called "Las Novenas" or The Ninths. Basically, nine days before Christmas, people get together and have a small prayer session where they recount the story of Mary and Joseph's passage to Jerusalem. There is a Novena for each of the nine days before Christmas and companies sponsor prayer books so that you can easily have one of these ceremonies at any moment. We haven't done a Novena for every day, but maybe we've done 4.

It's kind of like a contest really. From what I understand, every year the family competes to have the first Novena and the scheduling goes from there. This year, however, there weren't that many, so maybe people were just busier or something. Either way, for me, the Novenas are a bit boring. The language is a bit formal and difficult (using Vosotros and the more archaic form of the past subjunctive, for example) and religious vocabulary is much more difficult to follow than every day speech. So really, after a period of concentration as I attempt to decipher the story, I kind of drift off into my own thoughts. But, it is interesting that Colombia has this tradition, a tradition that appears unique in the Spanish speaking world (if anyone knows of other countries that do this, please let me know). So, it's been cool to have the expierence. But in the end, it didn't make me much more Christmasy.

So, after thinking about Christmas and what it is to feel in the Christmas Spirit, I decided that for me, it's cooking and sharing with friends and family. That is more difficult this year than one might imagine. For one, the majority of my family is in the US. So we won't be sitting around the table gossipping as we wonder who will eat more, my brother in law or me (Christmas dinner is serious business). There also won't be any cute nieces or nephews running around screaming with excitement and pleasure.

But even worse, my wife's grandmother, bless her heart, basically trumped the whole Christmas dinner prepartion by buying us all sorts of food including a cooked turkey and what I think it's a pig's ass (also cooked). So, while it was indeed quite lovely for her to think of us, it ultimately robbed me of one of the great pleasures of Christmas, which is giving the gift of tastiness and succulence to my friends and family.

(Aside about grandmother: She urged us to buy a case of wine to keep in the house last week. We declined because really, what the hell would we do with a case of wine? We don't drink that much and we're not inclined to have an "alcoholic house". Now, after receiving various gifts, we have 3 bottles of wine, a bottle of scotch, a bottle of tequila, and a bottle of cachaca. So much for not having much alcohol in the house.)

At any rate, I've decided to remedy this situation by preparing a very nice Christmas Eve dinner for my wife and I and by doing a fabulous Christmas breakfast. On the menu for tonight is Chicken Parmesan (if I can find some damn bread crumbs!). It's a pretty easy dish to make and definitely should fit into the tasty and delicious categorization (although clearly not succulence).

For tomorrow, I'm going to cook a traditional Bogotana breakfast soup called Caldo de Castillos. The first time I experienced this soup, I was very suspect. Generally, North American soups are best used for testing the drain in your sink and the idea of a breakfast soup with Cow ribs was a bit unwelcoming. But then, after I tasted it, I became a complete Caldo fanatic. But I've never made it. So tomorrow is the day I learn how. I need to perfect this soup. It's too good not to and if I perfect it, I can prepare it for my relatives and wow them with my cooking mastery. (A bit of sarcasm there. This soup is so incredibly easy to make the toddler that commented about my Iran/Korea blogs could even make it successfully.)

At any rate, maybe that will make me feel a bit more Christmasy. We'll see. Either way, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah, and Joyous Kwanza to all. I hope this season brings you that which you desire and if it doesn't, that which you need.


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