for dinner we made my family's traditional christmas meal of homemade pierogis, which are these delicious mashed-potato-stuffed giant raviolis, boiled, and then fried in butter. my mom usually makes them with just potatoes and velveeta, but since we don't have velveeta out here (we have AWESOME dutch cheese instead), we filled our pierogis with mashed potatoes, a heap of shredded gouda, and some onions fried in butter. and then a splash of buttermilk, just to make it even creamier. omg, they were incredible. i showed valerie how to roll out the dough really thin and then we would have a contest to see who could shove the most filling in there while still being able to seal up the pierogi nice and tight. adam helped with peeling the potatoes, mashing them, and then cleaning up the mess afterwards. and valerie also peeled potatoes, helped me roll and stuff, and when i needed to make a bit more dough, she was the one that stood by the stove and cooked everything up! yay for teamwork!
after dinner, valerie and i sat by the fire and crocheted our blankets while adam cleaned up our awful mess in the kitchen. at about 10:30 that night, valerie and i walked over to the church next door for their christmas eve kerstzang, or christmas caroling (adam stayed at home). it seemed that most of the people there were just there early to get a good seat for the midnight mass which began at 11:00 pm and weren't really interested in the caroling thingy, but valerie and i sang as loud and as joyfully as we could. some of the songs were in english (i sang those), and some were traditional dutch song (i didn't sing those), and some were tunes i recognized but with dutch words instead (i sang those ones, and valerie said that my dutch pronunciation when i was singing was actually pretty good. nice to hear from a native! thanks!). and then mass began at 11:00 and we decided to stick around for it since we were already there, even though we were both exhausted already. it was a really nice service with a youth choir and several young women who did most of the readings that night. then home a little past midnight and straight to bed so that santa could come and stuff our stockings!
the next morning was christmas, and we all woke to the sounds of the bells singing from st. lambertus church. somehow valerie beat us downstairs, but only by a few minutes. after adam got up, we all had a little breakfast (which included leftover pierogis) and then opened our stockings! adam and i (er, i mean, santa) picked up a stocking for valerie a couple days beforehand, because we weren't sure if she had one of her own (she being dutch and all). but she ended up bringing her own stocking filled with gifts that her dad and stepmom brought out for her when they visited in november. (her dad and stepmom live in colorado -- he is dutch, she is american.) so that was really nice that she had presents from home to open, too. she even brought out presents for adam, me, and spruitje too! how thoughtful! and then after the stockings we had another breakfast, with homemade poppyseed muffins (thanks for bringing those, valerie!) and hot-out-of-the-oven croissants.
we all sat around in our jammers all day and watched a movie and ate more leftover pierogis. i called home and listened over the phone as my family opened up the few presents that we sent their way, and then around 6:30 valerie hopped the train back to amsterdam. we were so sad to have to put on shoes and pants and go outside after lounging all day, but we were even more sad to see her leave us! noooo!
after adam and i got back from the train station, we turned on the webcam and had another computer-mediated christmas with his family . the technology was much better this year, making it possible for us to chat jetsons-style with bob, rae, and matt for over an hour completely uninterrupted and free from frozen cameras and bad sound and dropped phone calls. hooray! we sat in front of our christmas tree with the laptop in front of us and the webcam propped on top of it, and the three of them all sat in the home office in colorado, in front of a little tree and some christmas lights that they strung up for "ambiance" too. we all opened gifts together for about an hour or so, and then we all wished each other a merry christmas and logged off. it was really sweet, and we're so grateful for the family gathering, even if it was virtual.
and then it was tweede kerst, or second christmas day. in america, we celebrate christmas eve and christmas day. but here they celebrate christmas day and then second christmas day. which is why they all say "merry christmases" (fijne feestdagen) instead of just the one "merry christmas" that we have in english. the shops were all still closed, and downtown was like a ghost town. it was realllly quiet and peaceful, and adam and i spent the morning opening the few presents that we didn't get to the night before (mostly gifts that we got for each other, but also a few late-arrival baby shower presents too). and ate more leftover pierogis.