Some Christmas Thoughts

Christmas is a low-key holiday for the DH and I, it always has been. We tend to observe both Christmas Eve & Christmas Day quietly without much fanfare.

DH is from Spain and in Spain, Christmas Eve is the time for celebrating. Christmas Eve in Spain is spent over a big dinner, usually made up of seafood riches, with all the family around. These dinners start around 10PM, the usual dinner time, and can last for hours. The kids wait eagerly for midnight, when they may get a present or two from Santa Claus. However, this is a new idea. Traditionally children in Spain receive gifts from the Three Kings on January 6th – Día de los Reyes. After dinner, many people get together with their friends in the streets & bars to have a few Christmas toasts. Nights in Spain last well into the morning, and this is no exception. Christmas Day  is a time for rest!

As an American, I’m used to celebrating on Christmas Day. My family did it the traditional way – excitement and an inability to fall asleep on Christmas Eve followed by an early morning wake-up to rip through the packages under the tree. We’d have a big lunch and then nap throughout the afternoon. Periodically my Dad or Mom would have to work, so sometimes our traditions changed. It didn’t really matter, the day always turned out great in the end.

Over the years, the DH and I have spent Christmas on a beach in Costa Rica, in Spain with family, in cold & snowy Toronto & in communist China (where there are an insane amount of decorations!)

This year we had our Christmas Eve feast in a small, humble Linyi restaurant. (It was so crowded when we arrived that we had to go shopping and come back in an hour just to get a seat.) I think we are going to start calling it the “Cauldron Place” because we ate a delicious, bubbling brew of a stew from a small, black cauldron. The stew was made up of beef and carrots and had a really intense flavor. Perfect for winter. DH ate there last week and kept going on and on about the stew, so I  made him take me there. The manager/owner, a round & bald Buddha look-a-like, remembered him and understood our ordering charades.

Beef Stew in Cauldron

The cauldron. In the background, the smiling Buddha and the bread making station.

When I say humble, I mean really humble. The first view on entering is a bread making station, and six dining tables to the left. In the back there is an entrance to the kitchen and a small desk where a girl sits ready to take payments. The bread making lady was interesting to watch. She had a huge terracotta bowl that she filled with flour and water and kneaded to the right consistency. She fashioned small rounds of dough and cooked them on two hot plate presses that reminded me of waffle makers without the bumps. The bread emerges flat and round, like a pita. It reminded me of the naan of India and the Middle East.

Chinese on a Chalkboard

The corner wall behind the desk was devoted to bottles of homemade liqueurs. On his first visit, the DH tried one that reminded him of a popular Spanish liqueur made from herbs. The bottles are filled with various foods, herbs & spices, many of which I couldn’t identify. Several customers ordered shots of the liqueurs but we decided not to. At our Muslim Meat dinner with Mr. W, we tried a liqueur made to “increase male strength” made up of, ahem, animal penises. I took a sip and was not impressed. I think I’ll leave the liqueurs to those who know what they are made of!

Chinese Liqueurs

Chinese Liqueurs Close Up

The rest of our Christmas Eve was spent drinking coffee and reading magazines at Coffee Language and doing our grocery shopping.

Coffee Language Magazines

What I love best about Coffee Language – the Chinese Magazine Wall!

As for gifts, today we received presents from the company and students: boxes of Dove & Cadbury chocolates – yummy. Yesterday while walking down the street, we were stopped by a tall, skinny Chinese Santa who presented us with carefully wrapped apples, to the amusement of everyone on the surrounding sidewalks. As for the DH and I, our best gift to each other is always the ability to be together on Christmas!

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