Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 Holiday Recap: Our First Christmas and New Year in Luxembourg

(I will finish this post.  I will finish this post.  I will finish this post...)

I promised to recap our first holiday season in Luxembourg.  Well, there's no denying we've had a rough month or so--lots of sickness, loneliness, yucky weather, and transportation mishaps.  We're all worn a little thin, and we're not quite out of the woods yet.  Monday was supposed to be the kids' first day back to school, but it wasn't.  Pete, Daphne and I are all on antibiotics for strep throat (Daphne's turned to scarlet fever).  Thankfully, Daphne went back to school on Thursday and we're all on the mend.  Hopefully James is in the clear, but we're not holding our breath (although perhaps we should, since apparently the step bacteria is passed via inhalation...)

As December rolled on, when people asked what we were "doing for Christmas," I just answered honestly with, "I have no idea, we're making this up as we go!"  Up until this year, most of our extended family was in very close proximity.  We've always spent lots of time together for Christmas and New Years, and that's all we've really cared about "doing" for the holidays - it's our main tradition.  Because Christmas is a busy and unpredictable time for Amazon, and because flights are particularly expensive, it seems likely that we will spend each Christmas holiday in Luxembourg (or at least Europe) while we're living here.

I often struggle with traditions in general (thinking of them, keeping them, caring about them, honoring their importance) yet I felt that whatever we did this first year might in fact "stick" for our subsequent holiday seasons in Luxembourg, somewhat by default.  Accordingly, I felt pressure to incorporate some fun, positive activities that would "stick," in part to avoid dwelling upon the fact that we are away from and missing the rest of our family.

A constant stream of Christmas music on Spotify provided our soundtrack for December, and I'm convinced that the familiarity of holiday songs played a huge role in keeping us sane and happy.  (Well, that and Trader Joe's Spiced Chai Latte mix).  The first part of the month was busy with Daphne's birthday party (which we almost cancelled due to illness), plus we hosted a party for Pete's work colleagues, and I hosted one for some of the moms I've met at school.  We mailed cards and Christmas boxes to the U.S, and received a slow trickle of cards and gifts from friends and family in the post.  The school's two-week winter break corresponded with the school break in the States.  Pete worked Christmas Eve, but with a bit of unexpected time off and the public holidays on the 25th and 26th + the weekend + New Year's Day, he had a solid week off to spend with the family.  We had thought we'd take a couple of day trips on the train, but with Pete feeling quite ill at that point, we settled in for a quiet couple weeks at home.

As the first week of winter break progressed, the kids began speaking more and more Luxembourgish to each other.  Perhaps they missed speaking it with their classmates at school.  We encouraged them to keep it up, and they also gave us some lessons.   They made up a game in which they say a word or sentence and Pete and I take turns guessing what it means.  Believe it or not, I think we're slowly catching on.  If we listen closely, with context, we can often make out what a very simple sentence means.  It sounds a bit like "funny English" a lot of the time, and I think it's easier to understand than straight German.  Maybe we're growing accustomed to the cadence.

Let's see, how else did we pass the time?  Well, we spent a lot of time in pajamas (shocking), and playing music (again, shocking) and board/card games.  We watched movies in German, Luxembourgish, and English, and ate chocolate.  Pete read to the kids from the Chronicles of Narnia.  We took walks on the nicer days and even stopped for a ride on the ferris wheel at the Christmas market.

atop the wheel 
exploring a new park on what may have been the only sunny day
We ate several Christmas-themed meals - which by our definition are random, improvised concoctions that incorporate red and green (anything with sautéed red and green bell peppers, spinach and tomato omelets, pancakes topped with berry jam and kiwi get the idea).

ok, so it looks unappetizing at best, but it tasted delicious!
We made good use of the Shop 'n' Go, a gas station market within walking distance, with its extended hours and much more "real food" than a typical U.S. gas station mini-mart.  We also ordered in Indian food.  I'm betting that tradition will stick.

Pete is taking over running our church's music beginning in January, so we spent a lot of time planning and prepping music and scheduling musicians, as well as participating in December church services.

Pete and I taught the 4-8yr olds a song to share
One tradition we've never missed since the year Daphne was born is baking and decorating sugar cookie cut-outs.  It's practically a family legend that right before she was born, I succumbed to a manic nesting-induced baking frenzy, the result of which was dozens of decorated sugar cookies.  Anyway, for awhile it looked like it wasn't going to happen this year, but upon discovering we kept our rolling pin in the move, we managed to sneak a batch in a few days after Christmas.  Whew.

We knew video chat would be important this holiday.  The kids had a special chat with their good friends on Christmas Eve.

Then on Christmas morning they emptied their stockings.

Then we waited (quite patiently and contentedly, I might add) until 7pm Lux time when our families back in the U.S. began their Christmas gatherings.  First, we chatted with Pete's side of the family as we all opened our gifts "on camera."
Daphne already wearing a dress-up pressent
impromptu concert for grandparents and great-grandparents
a very "meta" family photo
After the chat, we broke for dinner (dinner is later all the time - we're turning European!).  As a result of poor planning and losing track of time (my fault), we didn't make it to the regular grocery store before it closed on Christmas Eve, so we had to cobble together a Christmas dinner from Shop 'n' Go ingredients.  Miraculously, it turned out great, so that may be a tradition that sticks!

Then around 8pm we chatted with my side of the family and opened our gifts from each other.
as you can see, books are popular
more "meta"
So, that was all pretty strange, and a bit sad, but still fun in its own way.

Moving on to New Year's...

I made another shopping mistake and hit Auchan for groceries on New Year's Eve.  Still, we're finding that with Sunday church and limited store hours, we're often stuck shopping on Monday, holiday or no holiday.
the picture doesn't do it justice, but this is right before complete gridlock set in

Daphne was quite upset that that we were alone on New Year's, since as far back as she can remember we've always spent it with friends and other kids.  But she rallied.  Next year we should really plan ahead to have friends over.  This year I don't think we even knew anyone with kids who was still in town and not otherwise occupied with visiting family or plans of their own.

This was the first year the kids hit that all-important milestone of staying up until midnight (with a nap beforehand).  After a few neighborhood fireworks, we headed to bed.

Gosh, I think that's about it for our holidays.  Finally.  Oh, we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary!  Although "celebrated" is a strong word...Pete was still sick and I got sick that night...

Final reflections:  Hmmm.  Maybe ask me in a few months.  For now, I really am just grateful for our family, our friends near and far, relatively good health, modern communication and medicine, a great place to live, and this world full of fun and crazy opportunities.

Luxembourg Christmas #1 is in the books!


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rosie! We miss all of you...

Anonymous said...

Loved reading the latest. Hang in there. I still can't imagine being without a car!
Love you all, Auntie Grace