Today I have a question for all of you about holidays. At what point did you stop going home for the holidays? Or have you stopped? Have you ever hosted Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever at your own place? Have you ever spent the holidays away from your own family, and if so, what was that like?
We haven't ever hosted a holiday ourselves. The only holidays with my parents that I've ever missed were Thanksgiving and Christmas the year that I was studying abroad in France, and it was very strange. Thanksgiving was particularly strange because they don't celebrate it in France and I didn't even realize that it was Thanksgiving until my parents called the day of. Once I realized it, I felt sad and lonely, especially I ate leftover vegetable soup for dinner with my host family.
Christmas was weird too. We celebrated it at the grandparents' house in Provence, and they had only a tiny little tree. My parents had sent me a Christmas package but I opened it by myself because I was afraid my host family would find it extravagant. They all exchanged one gift each and my parents had sent me five or six. I had two presents under the tree--from my host family, a scarf I'd been coveting wrapped in a pretty purple package, and from the grandparents, a packet of new Euro coins. It was Christmas 2001, right before the Euro was introduced, and the post office had been selling these baggies of coins as a preview and a collector's item. The grandparents had bought the same thing for me and my two older host siblings, and had opened only one of the packets to look at the coins out of their own curiosity. They gave the opened packet to me.
My boyfriend had broken up with me via email the week before, and I hadn't told my parents about it yet, so I told them about it when they called to say Merry Christmas, and they were stunned and didn't know what to say. It didn't ruin anyone's Christmas, though, except maybe mine. But I don't think that would have been the best Christmas regardless. It was just too different.
The day after Christmas the grandparents served canned peas and carrots with lunch, and even though I didn't like those vegetables, it was the first time that they had actually made me throw up. I was horrified at myself until I realized that it wasn't the peas and carrots--it was the fact that I was sick. I spent the whole day puking. When I got better, the grandmother taught me how to make coq au vin, but by now I've forgotten the recipe.
The following year at Thanksgiving, my dad and I planned the meal, and made entirely French side dishes--stuffed tomato, and eggplant ragout, and potato gratin, and chocolate mousse for dessert along with pumpkin pie. I used the cookbook that my French family had given me. I still have that cookbook but I haven't used it in years.
We'll be going to my parents' house again this year for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving is always easy because Torsten's family, being German, doesn't celebrate it, and really Christmas is easy too because Torsten's parents are used to him being far away and don't really expect him to come home and celebrate it. But Torsten would like to go home for Christmas at least some years, and I'd like that too. But I imagine it will be strange for me, like it was in France.
I do look forward to someday hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas in our house, a spacious place we own with a kitchen that has enough space to cook a big meal, and a spare room for guests to stay in, and a fireplace and room for a real Christmas tree. But I suppose either Torsten or I will have to learn to cook a turkey before we can host Thanksgiving. And I'm still not sure how that transition will happen. I always go home for the holidays. My sister stayed at home one year and had Thanksgiving with friends, but the report that I got was that it was weird and a bit lonely and sad. Maybe you have to have kids before you start staying home? Or maybe even then, you don't?
This is where you come in. What's your holiday routine, and how has it changed over the years?
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