Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I intended to post this BEFORE leaving for our family Christmas present: a vacation in Barcelona (of which many photos and postings will follow). Oops. But better late than never?

The reason for the Season...our baby Jesus doesn't appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

The reason for the Season…our baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

We enjoyed a merry Christmas with our college-age daughters, who flew in to celebrate their holiday with us. We were so happy to have them all with us for Advent!

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our traditional Christmas dinner has long been ham, not turkey. In France, not only is it turkey, but you can pretty much only buy turkey in December, short of special ordering. The thing is, French hams don’t look like American hams, for the most part. I cook a Southern brown sugar ham with pineapple, cloves and maraschino cherries, like my good Daddy taught me. We perused the charcuterie counter at the store quite awhile before deciding on the end piece of what I am sure must have been a lunch meat ham. This is a place where you can easily buy a whole pig leg ham, and I have no idea how to ask for just a certain section of it. Still, it worked. Except for the cherries, which I have never seen here, we had a delicious ham for dinner, with potatoes and carrots and salad and sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don't have  easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don’t have easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Christmas does seem a bit foreign and strange here. The lights are all in pink and purple, and they often have a dripping icicle element. Many houses have ninja-skilled Santas climbing the house, instead of arriving on the rooftop via reindeer. We sang carols to the neighbors on our little dead-end street with a few friends from church, and we gave THEM a surreal experience doing so…it is all but unheard of here. Most welcomed our short seranade, though. But the insanely crowded malls were very familiar!

Still, Christmas is Christmas for its spirit, not its red and green, its striped hooked candy canes, its carols blaring from every public speaker for weeks, as the Grinch found (I think I’ll need to see if that’s on Hulu…missed it, too!). Having my daughters with us for Advent, singing together, unstuffing stockings and devouring ham and pie, all made Christmas warm and cozy and comforting.

I’m curious what essentials keep Christmas cozy for you, wherever you go?

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