so, how was your holiday? did you spend it with your family? did you make it to church? was it a white christmas?
as much as we miss our families back home, i think we both feel that it was a good decision to experience a christmas in europe. we both loved all the gezellig decorations and festivities in hengelo, and it was fun to have such a quiet, simple christmas with just the two of us. i'd trade it all to have been able to spend it with my friends and family back in the US, but still... i think it was a good decision to stay here and try something different this year. it was good.
on christmas eve we made a traditionally american meal with turkey and all the fixins. we were lucky to have found a turkey, because it's something that they just don't eat that much of out here. we discovered a poultry stand at the market that had hele kalkoen, or "whole turkeys" for sale this past week, just special for the holidays! initially we thought that maybe we'd just get a turkey breast, because A) our oven is too small to bake an entire turkey, and B) our fridge is too small for all the leftovers. but then we actually saw the turkeys -- they were so tiny! the biggest one they had was about the size of a roasting chicken back home -- almost all of them were less than 5 lbs. (ours was 1.9 kilograms.) to cook it, we had to look up on the internet how to convert pounds and fahrenheit to kilos and celsius, and we covered it in my little dutch oven and put it into our little dutch oven.
after dinner we watched "a charlie brown christmas" on youtube.com (how fun!) and opened just a couple of presents. we were on our way to bed when we heard the church bells ringing. now, the church bells here ring all the time -- every quarter hour in fact, 24 hours a day -- but they also ring differently when it's time for mass. about 10 minutes before, the bells will ring all at once, as loudly as they can, for several minutes, announcing to everyone that mass is about to begin. we usually hear those bells once in the morning and once in the evening, but never at 11 pm. when all of a sudden we realized: it's midnight mass! we tried making excuses for ourselves as to why we should just go to bed: we're tired, we're not dressed up, my hair is a mess, etc. but then we decided it was an experience we just couldn't pass up: christmas mass in a catholic church is always beautiful, so it must be even MORE beautiful in europe! we threw on our coats and shoes and ran out the door. we got there just at the end of a lovely song that this AMAZING choir was singing. all the lights in the church were off, and the only light that you could see was the light from these elegant pillar candles casting light off of the white pillars of sint lambertus church. so beautiful.
we understood the gist of the homily, but not all of it because it was in dutch, and it was essentially about stripping down christmas to its original intention: christ. the choir sang a number of beautiful songs, but my favorite favorite favorite part was when we all sang "silent night." everyone was singing it in dutch, but i was singing it in english. and the young men behind me were singing it in a completely different language that i didn't know. and still, we were all singing silent night together, with one heart, with one voice, with one intention. it was incredibly moving. so beautiful.
christmas day we opened a few presents and opened our stocking stuffers. later that afternoon we took a train to ede-wageningen to have dinner with a family i know from my UU church in amsterdam. it was an incredible meal, again with turkey, 5 kinds of wine (i had my first glass of authentic french champagne!), and 2 different desserts! after dinner we gathered around the piano and sang christmas songs together until it was time to catch the train back home. we got back around 9:30 and had a computer-mediated christmas with bob and rae: we both turned on our webcams and sat by our computers as we opened presents together -- 4000 miles apart! my parents called me around 11:30, which was such a treat, and we finally both went to bed around 1:00 am.
so that was our christmas. full and lonely and wonderful and gezellig and simple and lovely. how was yours?