I celebrated Christmas for the first time, in a modest middle-class-but-has-a-farm style in Ieper, Belgium, with T and my cousin, A. The household's farmland is rented out to some family members, and as far as I could see in winter, there are sheep - which apparently live so well with lots of space to run around that some Muslims have come before Eid ul-Adha to buy some to sacrifice (For an explanation of Eid ul-Adha, click here).
Not so far away is a beautiful big lake that is frozen over now, but where people go to windsurf in better weather. I walked her dog, Charlie, for the first time, and it was clear by the way he tugs incessantly that he's the pack leader.
On Christmas eve, some of her extended family - maternal grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins came for a big dinner. On Christmas day, her paternal grandparents came and everyone opened presents. Her two nephews - the most adorable little boys ever, cute as buttons - were in charge of bringing everyone's presents to them (:
Language-wise, at first I didn't know what to speak in because Flanders, the northern part of Belgium speaks Dutch but in a special accent, which makes them call it Flemish. Wallonia/Walloon, the southern part - which I heard has been wanting to secede - speaks French. But when we went around greeting each of her family one by one, her grandmother started to say,
- Desolée, je ne parle pas...
- Ah, mais je parle français, moi!
To which we immediately clicked of course. I also had quite a long conversation with her grandfather, who thinks all religions are good. (I think so too!) He told me his age and that of his wife's three times, but I enjoy listening to old people talk.
We also met up again with the girls who came to visit me in The Hague a month ago, and we made apple-cinnamon pancakes and hot chocolate, and somehow got giddy enough with all that sugar to start learning how to 'sexy-dance' in S's kitchen, according to this hilarious video.
I didn't know this before, but Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on another day - around or on 7 January. I only found this out when some of my ISS friends were sorry they couldn't come to my (surprise) birthday gathering (: I think they believe that 25 Dec coincides with a pagan, pre-Christianity festival for the sun, that was meshed together with Christianity to make it more 'palatable' for the pagans - do correct me if I'm wrong.