More spirit

This Christmas is a little different from last year’s which we celebrated in Kabul. It’s an odd experience when this special week is just an ordinary week, as it is in Kabul, where the big holiday (Eid) took place some time ago and the new year doesn’t start until Mach 21.

Being with our kids and friends is wonderful. With the serenity (oh how I love the music) that has taken the place of its franticness, time may stand still.

The day before Christmas Eve we went caroling at D’s house, an annual event we look forward to as Christmas caroling is a sure way to lift one’s spirits. And God knows we needed spirit lifting – D because her husband passed away this month and me because of my difficulty to get my feet back on the ground. And I am sure there were other sad stories among the carolers. But while we sung the missing husbands showed up in spirit and the future looked brighter again.

Christmas Eve was a time of cooking and rhyming, in preparation for our Christerklaas. In the late afternoon we joined Sita’s in-laws across town for an annual ritual that includes great company, great food and much cooing around two babies. Next year there will be three. Sita and Jim practiced holding a baby as if there was no tomorrow. They are next, five months hence.

The in-law event is also an annual ritual and includes a Yankee Swap (or Dirty Christmas as they call it below the Mason Dixon line I was told). People pull numbers from a hat and everyone put their unlabeled but wrapped gift in the middle of the room. Number one gets to pick a gift first, then number two, etc. Any number after 1 can choose to exchange the gift selected for one that someone has already gotten. Finally number 1 gets to do the final exchange, if any.

It’s great fun as one is confronted with the quickly formed attachments we develop to material things – but holding on to a few prize gifts is near impossible. The gifts that were most exchanged were coffee paraphernalia, a knife set and a ball of horse dung.

I drew the last number which is considered very lucky. I got a bottle of wine and exchanged it for the ball of dried horse manure plus some lottery tickets. It was the horse manure that will make this a gift that will keep on giving – actually really a gift for our flowerbed after having bloomed for me all summer. (The lottery tickets were losers).

Back home we all dashed into our rooms and offices to prepare for our surprise-lade Christerklaas, a variation that is beginning to develop its own character, on the traditional Dutch speaking-truth-to-each-other rhyming and teasing.

The Lobster Cove variation consist of elaborate schemes with riddles, multiple beneficiaries and collective projects, but also of hanging poems in the tree. In another decade the origins of this ritual will have been lost in the mists of time.

We usually start at midnight because no one is ready before that time. This time, since we are all a bit older, we weren’t able to finish things and by 2 AM we gave up, to be continued.

So far I have made out like a bandit and received some great poems and gifts: a composter (goes with the horse manure thing), a new pair of Dutcg clogs (the old one got eaten by Tessa’s dog while we were in Kabul), wool, a shawl and a bunch of bath liquids that include one by the name of heavenly bliss, that includes red poppy and hemp extract – will the police come and arrest me while I bathe in this naughty concoction?

One of the themes this year appears to be pigs and goats. There was a bacon cookbook, goat cheese, more bacon and a gift of a goat and a pig to be distributed according to Heifer International’s wishes. And then the other theme of course is baby-in-the-making Bliss.

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