Sunday, December 25, 2011

Joyeux Noël!

It's Christmas in Belgium!  For all that's been going on in Liège and in the stores, Christmas wasn't as big a deal here as I had been expecting; St. Nicolas is definitely the main attraction for the little kids.  It's been a lot different here than Christmas back home, with, for me, a lot more people and a lot less dessert.  Because "far away" in Belgium seems to be about 60 kilometers (less than 40 miles), the entire extended family can get together to celebrate.

The main celebration was on Christmas eve, which we spent with my host mom's family: her mother, aunt, two sisters and three cousins and their families.  Everyone brought their presents with them (no Santa Claus here) to exchange over wine and appetizers.  Then, while the children played with their new toys, the adults (which included me, as everyone else of my generation was under 12) enjoyed a fancy dinner: foie gras followed by veal and pasta followed by a cheese platter followed by Speculoos mousse and ice cream.  I wasn't a huge fan of the foie gras, in part because I couldn't stop thinking about what I was eating, but everyone told me that it was a symbol of a special occasion, so I made sure to try to appreciate it.  It was a lot different from the Christmas eve I'm used to (my family of four eating a simple meal and watching a movie), but it was fun to meet all of the family.  They all talked about how happy they were not to have snow this year (the opposite of how I was feeling, especially after hearing about the snow they had back home) and told stories about previous years long into the night.  We left around 2 am, a departure slightly delayed by my host brother's losing of his first tooth, which got lost down the drain and had to be rescued.

This year, for the first time ever, I slept in on Christmas.  For all that I no longer rush downstairs as soon as I possibly can to try to guess what Santa has brought me, I still usually wake up around 7 am.  In part because of the late return and in part because all the presents had been opened the night before, I managed to sleep until 11.  I ate a tartine (no gingerbread cookies for breakfast... no gingerbread cookies at all, in fact) for breakfast and played with some of my host brother's new toys: Disney Trivial Persuit, a Jenga-esque game, toy soldiers, legos...

My host dad's family (his aunts, uncles, father, grandmother, cousins and their children) arrived around 5; all together we were 34.  We had set up little tables throughout the downstairs of the house with chips and pretzels, and served a ridiculous amount of champagne.  Between the 10-person table for the plus agées in the playroom, the table for the small children in the kitchen, and everyone else in the living room, we managed to serve duck, scalloped potatoes, vegetable purée, steamed carrots, and figs to everyone, which was followed by several Bûches de Noël, or yule log cakes.  This was followed by tea and chocolates and everyone left by a (slightly more) reasonable hour.

Tomorrow, there will be even more celebration with family friends and their children, I think mostly to eat up some of the leftovers.

Merry Christmas and meilleurs vœux!

One bûche de Noël

My host family, complete with sapin de Noël and the new iPad 2

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