Christmas started on Friday. I woke up to start the long process of cookie making at around 9:30, but mid-way through my host sister came home and convinced me to go get our Aunt Nicole and do some chores out and about. When we returned, she helped me finish the cookies by cutting them and the hectic cookies-out of the oven and cookies-in to the oven crazy dance. After getting flour ever, we had several batches of festive cookies. Then my host mom, Laurie and I went out into Waterloo for a bit to do some shopping. When I got back, Jerome suggested I text one of his friends and I ended up hanging out with some Belgians for the night.
So that meant the cookie decorations would be done Christmas eve, Saturday. Laurie and I worked hard on frosting and decorating the fifty or so cookies. The whole family cleaned the house and lit an outrageous amount of candles. The table was set festively. I played some Bing Crosby, and Laurie really liked my mixed rock n’ roll Christmas CDs. Christmas eve was me, my host parents, my host brother Jerome, my host sister Laurie, and her boyfriend Raphael. It was a really awesome night. We spent the night joking around, eating really good, slightly fancy food, and discussing deep things about human nature. IN FRENCH =D
We had an altogether quiet Christmas eve dinner. My host family is religious, and don’t believe in a lot of the commercial aspects of Christmas like gift-giving and Christmas trees, but my host mom gave me a pair of silver earrings. I teared up a bit—I hadn’t expected any presents, but she wanted me to have a souvenir of my time in their house.
Dinner was fish pate, steak, cooked pears with cranberries and crouquettes. For dessert, we had a traditional log-shaped ice cream cake.
After dinner, we got all bundled up and walked down to the church for midnight mass, which started at 23:30 and went to 1:00. It was cute, a very small church with a little choir and an excellent organist. Some of the songs I knew in English and some I had never heard before. I took communion. Everyone shook hands.
I’m not religious, so a lot of this stuff was very confusing to me and I just sort of followed my host siblings actions.
After, everyone gathered in the church for hot wine and waffles. I talked a lot to some Belgian friends. Some of which mentioned how my French had improved, and one of which said how well adapted and assimilated I was to my current host family. This was nice, but made me kind of sad since I have to leave soon.
Sunday we woke up early to clean the house and decorate it a little. We ate a traditional sweet bread with raisons. Apparently when the kids were younger, my host mom used to leave one loaf of bread on each bed. It was very good! My host father made me hot chocolate and we all just kind of chilled out. It felt really special.
The whole family came over. I met a lot of people and talked a lot. They even forced me to get my viola out (streessss). I skyped with my family but got distracted because my host cousins were playing ultimate ninja and I wanted to join in. It was a long tiring day with an unhealthy amount of dessert, but I survived for the better. It was honestly a great Christmas, and I didn’t die or anything.
The day after Christmas I went to Sarah’s house. I toured Tournai for the first time, exchanged gifts with her and her family (yes, I got gifts for her family. Yes. They got gifts for me as well.) And had a generally relaxing day. Sarah and I laughed so much that her parents thought we were a bit on the drunk side of sober. Her host mom also taking oversized (like three or four times the size of my head) Christmas ornaments in the car home with us didn’t help our giddiness. We also drove through a sketchy part of town with sarah’s host mom and brother and had fun pretending like the people were in a zoo and using slang terms to describe everything.
We also played some American football in the Belgian equivalent of a Dick’s Sporting Goods. Until we got told to stop.
The train ride home was long, but some guys saw me reading my kindle and it started a whole conversation. They were super surprised to find out I was from American, their first guess being that I was Flemish. Anyway, it was fun. I always feel like train rides are a missed opportunity to meet interesting people and this opportunity was not missed for once!
Anyway, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and WILL have a happy new year.