Thursday, 4 December 2008

My guilty little habit

I'll admit now that I am a big fan of the holidays. I always was, but I've deteriorated since living away from my hometown. Instead of getting homesick, I get fanatical about the holidays. From 1st October through to the 15th February, I get starry eyed and nostalgic. I hum Christmas carols at odd and inappropriate times. I've forced people to drink homemade eggnog.

Living in Germany has made things worse. Germans know how to do Christmas with gusto. Therefore, I've had a secret hankering for Christmas since holidays cards went on sale in August. Publicly, I cried, "Too early! Not yet!" though I longed to pick them up and run my fingers over their green and red glitter. I withstood. At least for a little while.

I finally broke down mid-October. One right after another, I produced my goods -- Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, and glorious mincemeat. I sat down amidst of my flour-strewn kitchen and surveyed my booty. One whiff and there was Christmas in all its spicy, fruity, boozy glory. With precision, I wrapped, sealed and secreted each away into the deepest, darkest corner of my pantry.

But that wasn't the end. Every few weeks whenever I'm home alone and need a dose of holiday happiness, I lock the door, out comes my supply and off comes the wrapping. I jealously survey each for blight, add in a bit more alcohol, and take a deep, delightful breath. Satisfied, back they go, my family none the wiser.

Finally, the tree is up, lights are aglitter, cards posted, Christmas markets are scheduled, and my holiday mania is pacified (for now).

So, for the truly obsessed, I've compiled the following list of my minimum holiday eating requirements:

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving wherever you may be

Living outside of the United States, I have to cobble a Thanksgiving dinner out of whatever I can find that's closest to the original thing. My local British grocery store carries stuffing and cranberry jelly and I can find plenty of turkey in the German ones. Luckily I stocked up on canned pumpkin last time I was stateside. (Word of warning: airport security loves canned pumpkin in suitcases!) As I don't have time for a big dinner, this is pretty much the extent of our celebration, other than my Tom Turkey here.

I don't live in a disneyfied German town. This is a living, evolving area -- ruined by war, rebuilt, and rebuilding -- wedged between the industrial Rhineland and the forever flat Dutch farmlands. This is a borderland, a limbo, not quite onething and still quite influenced by another. So am I -- not quite fully American, nor European, nor Carribean whatever my passport might say. My mother always said I was more British than American and friends say, with some surprise, that I don't fit their ideas of what Americans are. "Canadian?" some quiz, or stranger yet, "Australian?"

I bet if you asked those ubiquitous pilgrims who they were when sat down to give thanks, they would've declared that they were proudly English, despite religious persecution and alienation from their homeland. Were they the same people they were before they set out on their now mythologized journey? Had strife, hard work, and contact with new cultures, new views, and new priorities changed who they were? Without a doubt. They had a new citizenship as colonists, expatriates in a new world.

In a distant and modern way, I've followed in the spirit of those footprints. I've left my homeland and have become an expatriate and a member of a growing global society. I love my homeland and I celebrate the traditions and uniqueness of my host countries, but this Thanksgiving I am giving thanks for the hardships and good fortune that has made me what I am today -- an expatriate enjoying an exciting world; an expatriate not quite one thing and very much influenced by another.